May 19, 2016

Liberal donors the Exclusive Brethren deny being anti-gay. Here's proof they are

Michael Bachelard
The Age
June 19, 2016

World leader of the Exclusive Brethren, Bruce Hales.

The Exclusive Brethren church has denied that it is "resolutely anti-gay", even though it mistreats its gay members, and has launched numerous political campaigns against the rights of LGBTI people starting over a decade ago.

Fairfax Media has reported that the cashed-up separatist religious sect, which donates secretly to the Liberal Party, has "virulently anti-gay" attitudes.

Notes from a meeting in which Exclusive Brethren leader Bruce D. Hales tells a young girl she should not live with her father because he is homosexual.

The articles prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to say, "I've got no criticisms or complaints about that organisation ... As you know, everybody is free to make political contributions."

In a statement to Fairfax Media, the Liberal-linked Sydney public relations firm Wells Haslem​, which represents the church, denied it's client was anti-gay, saying: "It is not".

"The Church has never campaigned against LGBTI individuals or communities," wrote the Brethren's PR representative, Benjamin Haslem. "The Church would appreciate [it] if you could amend our article so it is accurate."

A 2005 letter from the senior leaders of the Canadian Exclusive Brethren instructing members to campaign against gay marriage.

However, Fairfax Media has obtained a number of internal documents that show this claim to be wrong.

The Exclusive Brethren leader Bruce D. Hales said in a meeting in his Sydney office in January 2006 that homosexuality was "unnatural against the anatomy".

In the meeting, with a young girl who had been sexually abused by the man she was staying with, Mr Hales was discouraging her from leaving the church and going to live with her gay father.

The 2005 letter continued.

"God created man for the woman and the woman for man, not man for man and woman for woman," Mr Hales told the girl, according to notes taken by another Brethren man in the meeting. "How many homosexuals get a place in the world?"

Mr Hales is regarded by the Exclusive Brethren as the "Man of God," or "The Elect".

Also in 2006, Mr Hales' brother, Daniel, told Fairfax Media: "When I was a boy, homosexuals went to jail".

In 2009, Bruce Hales sent a gay 18-year-old Brethren member, Craig Hoyle, to a Sydney-based Brethren doctor. In a later complaint to the medical board, Mr Hoyle quoted Mr Hales saying: "There's medication you can go on for these things" to "help" with the "problem" of being homosexual.

Mr Hoyle said Mr Hales had told him to "never accept myself for who I was, and to always battle against my sexuality".

The doctor he was referred to, Mark Craddock, a radiologist, prescribed a potent drug called Cyprostat, which shuts off the supply of testosterone in the male body and is typically used to treat patients with advanced prostate cancer - or in some cases to chemically castrate "sexual deviants". Dr Craddock was later banned from practicing as a GP over his actions.

Mr Hoyle said: "Over the past few years I have been contacted by a number of current and former Brethren members who are gay, describing similar treatment at the hands of the church. There is no doubt in my mind that the Brethren attitude toward homosexuality has not changed in any meaningful way."

As for Wells Haslem's claim that the Brethren had not "campaigned" against LGBTI people, this is also false.

In the 2004 Federal election, the Brethren arranged, through the Liberal Party, to book a series of anti-Green advertising campaigns. Among the advertisements was a statement that transgender rights would ``ruin families and societies".

A transgender activist, Martine Delaney, complained to the anti-discrimination tribunal. The Brethren was forced to apologise, and the then Liberal campaign director Damien Mantach admitted his role.

The Brethren's anti-gay campaigns have also gone global, in a number of jurisdictions contemplating legislating for gay marriage.

In January 2005, the church's senior leaders in Canada wrote an "urgent memo" to the sect's members on a proposed same-gender marriage bill.

"Preventing the passage of this bill is absolutely critical", the memo said.

Gay marriage would mean, among other things, that "gay persons will flood Canada from all over the world, with disastrous social results", and there would "eventually be no barriers to underage marriage, incestual relationships or polygamy".

In another memo, the sect's American leaders asked senior leaders in Canada to lobby in the Canadian vote, saying "immediate action by each US household is needed," adding, "short, pungent letters must be written to your congressman".

The Brethren campaigned in the Don't Ask Don't Tell law change relating to gays in the American military in 1993, Canada Same-Sex Marriage law in 2005, and the Illinois Civil Unions legislation in 2007. Their claims included that gay people were incapable of controlling their sexual urges, spread disease, and contributed to the moral collapse of society.

When former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard - who was close to the Brethren - legislated in 2004 to define marriage for the first time as between a man and a woman, Exclusive Brethren members were present in Parliament every day of the debate.

A memo written by a senior Canberra-based Brethren man in July, 2004, said the Brethren had "greeted the Prime Minister as he left the Great Hall" (of Parliament House), and that "we are thankful for the true definition" of marriage.

"The purpose of the Bill is to stop the High Court of Australia from defining marriage improperly in the future," the member, John Myhill, wrote.

In the public relations firm's statement, Brethren representative Ben Haslem also wrote that the Plymouth (or Exclusive Brethren) has never been responsible for "covering up child sex abuse".

A note from a senior Exclusive Brethren member in 2004 revealing its role in encouraging John Howard to amend the Marriage Act to prevent gay marriage.

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