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Title Plymouth Brethren - Brethren leaders told flock to seek Howard win

Plymouth Brethren - Brethren leaders told flock to seek Howard win February 5th, 2007 - ONE month before the 2004 federal election, the leaders of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect wrote a letter to their flock that broke with more than 150 years of tradition. The letter offered strong support for the Howard Government, which, they said, would maintain economic prosperity, deal with the Asian threat and prevent a return to the awful years of the Whitlam Labor government. The sect s former Australian leader, Ron Fawkes, described the letter, obtained by The Age, as an explosive document , a call to arms as well as to prayer . It says to me that at the very highest level it s giving a direction for the brethren to get involved in the political sphere. Never has such a letter ever been amongst the Brethren, never. The leaders of Exclusive Brethren, which has about 15,000 members in Australia, have always maintained that the church has nothing to do with buying the hundreds of thousands of dollars of political advertisements that have backed conservative governments around the world since 2004. [...] But the letter dated September 8, 2004 and signed by eight men, including the sect s world leader, Bruce D. Hales (Daniel Hales brother) and each of its Australian state leaders strongly encouraged support for the present Federal Government, even though Brethren members are forbidden to vote. [...] Mr Fawkes said that, in Brethren speak , the call to be united in spirit was an encouragement to action, which would have been reinforced at the daily church services. Before the letter, Brethren members were punished for involvement in political campaigns. But a week after the date of the letter, a Brethren man in Sydney set up a shelf company that amassed $370,000 to fund pro-Liberal and anti-Green political advertisements and brochures. About the same time, Brethren members, including Mr Hales son, Stephen, agitated at a public meeting against a Green candidate in Mr Howard s seat of Bennelong. [...] The sect remains active in politics, having funded advertisements attacking the Greens in last year s Victorian election. [...] This is a summary extract from the full article as it appeared in The Age, Feb 5, 2007 Full Article