ABC Radio National's Background Briefing is profiling the Exclusive Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian sect whose members "keep themselves separate from other people (including other Christians) as far as possible, because they believe the world is a place of wickedness. They regard 'exclusiveness' as the only way to keep away from evil." For examples, members are forbidden to vote.
They may not vote, but they don't seem to be afraid of getting their hands dirty when it comes to shilling for conservative political parties--usually in the form of newspaper ads and pamphlets, and usually under assumed identities. As the "Thanksgiving 2004 Committee" they spent over $US 500,000 on newspaper advertisements supporting Bush and Republican Senate candidate Mel Martinez. Their Meadowbank school was used to authorise campaigns, operated by the brother of Brethren leader Bruce Hales, urging the re-election of Ross Cameron in Parramatta and John Howard in Bennelong. They spent another half a million on a leaflet campaign against Labour and the Greens in the recent NZ election, and met with Nationals leader Don Brash. And in the Tasmanian poll earlier this year, they conducted a smear-campaign against the Greens, warning that a vote for the Greens is a vote for same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. According to The Australian:
Other ads suggested the Greens would destroy families and society. Similar language was used in one Liberal Party pamphlet, prompting questions about Liberal involvement in the Brethren material.
Liberal state director Damien Mantach confirms meeting members of the church before the campaign but denies any involvement in drafting, placing or paying for the ads.
The Exclusive Brethren has previously been profiled on ABC's The World Today.
UPDATE: On the topic of Howard-loving fundies, Hillsong have produced an article on depression that, from the sounds of things, has to be seen to be believed. That is--if it could be seen: Hillsong seems to have taken it down. You can read all about it at Dogfight at Bankstown, The Bartlett Diaries, The Road to Surfdom, and Larvatus Prodeo.