Don Brash, Civil Unions & The Exclusive Brethren
Scoop Investigates: Don Brash, Civil Unions & The Exclusive Brethren
Last year Dr Don Brash after careful consideration of select committee submissions on the Civil Union Bill changed his mind on supporting the controversial legislation. Dr Brash stated in a press release in November 2004:
"It is very clear from the heavy preponderance of submissions opposed to this Bill when it went to select committee that this country is deeply divided on this issue. People see it as a direct attack on the institution of marriage, and as part of a more general attack by this Government on the institutions of civil society.
"For this reason, I have reached the view that we should submit this issue to a referendum. I personally would vote in favour of allowing same sex couples to form a legally binding relationship in that referendum."
Earlier in 2004 Dr Brash was quoted in the May issue of Express magazine as supporting the upcoming Civil Union Legislation:
"I’m basically saying that two loving adults want to commit to each other, I don’t see why the state can’t consider doing that. I can’t see how it damages anybody else’s interests."
And just a month later Dr Brash and a number of National MPs were happy to vote for the introduction of the Civil Union Bill
Three months later in late August 2004 Dr Brash was still a supporter of the Civil Union Bill when he informed the listeners of Christian radio station, Radio Rhema, that:
"My view is that allowing two people to contract formally together in the way that the civil union bill does, doesn’t undermine either the institution of marriage or my marriage"
Then at some stage after August 2004 the weight of the opposition to the Civil Union Bill - particularly from numerous Christian fundamentalist organisations - changed the supposedly socially liberal conscience of Dr Brash.
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Among the submitters on the Civil Union Bill are the names of three of the "secret seven" Exclusive Brethren who over the past few weeks have distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pamphlets attacking the current Labour Government and the Green Party.
Interestingly none of the advertisements funded by the Exclusive Brethren concentrated on any religious concerns the Exclusive Brethren may have had – instead targeting the very same buttons being pushed in the official National Party campaign, tax, health, security, defence & the environment.
Last week, after the controversy over the release of the Exclusive Brethren's pamphlets reached its peak, Dr Brash confirmed to the media that he had indeed been in contact with various members of the Exclusive Brethren and knew that they were planning a pamphlet campaign aimed at getting rid of the current Labour Government.
Also last week Scoop contacted Mr Timothy Lough one of the seven men behind the pamphlets, and also named in the Exclusive Brethren's submissions against the Civil Union Bill.
Mr Lough confirmed he had met with Dr Brash twice – in the Waiararapa on the day the pamphlets attacking the Government were released, and sometime in late 2004.
Mr Lough told Scoop he had not spoken to Dr Brash about the pamphlet campaign but had told Dr Brash that he was 'praying for him'.
Mr Lough also told Scoop that he had not been at the meeting between Dr Brash and as yet unidentified senior members of the Exclusive Brethren in which the pamphlet campaign was discussed.
All other attempts by Scoop to contact members of the Exclusive Brethren to discuss their communications with Dr Brash over the past week have been unsuccessful.
Scoop understands that nobody from the National Party apart from Dr Brash was present at the meeting with the Exclusive Brethren at which the pamphlets were discussed.
Dr Brash has stated publicly that he did not know about the content of the pamphlets nor about the scale of the campaign being undertaken.
In their submission regarding the Civil Union Bill, Messrs Lough, Win, Smith and co. spelt out just where they considered New Zealand had gone wrong:
"The last thirty years or more have seen a radical departure from the incorporating of christian principles into legislation that has had serious and far-reaching consequences. The introduction of the DPB in 1972, the legalisation of abortion in 1977, the Family Proceedings ACT 1980, the Homosexual Law Reform Bill 1986, the Property Amendment Act 2001 and the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, along with other laws, both passed and pending have combined with an increasing permissiveness in society to seriously erode moral standards and [have] incurred immense social and financial cost."
Just how a National led Government with a supposedly socially liberal leader will stem this tide remains to be seen. Notably Dr Brash voted in favour of the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.
Reminded of this during the TVNZ leader's debate last week Dr Brash took some exception:
ANDERTON: I might say, however, I'm waiting for the cheque in the mail. If Don Brash got half a million dollars from the Exclusive Brethren for voting for the Prostitution Law Reform, I'd expect to get at least a million for voting against it.
BRASH: Mark, Mark, Mark. Mark, that is an outrageous allegation which is totally without foundation.
CLARK: I think it was a joke, Don. I think it was a joke. (LAUGHS)
BRASH: But it's not a funny joke.
ANDERTON: I thought it was very funny.
BRASH: Helen Clark made an allegation of that sort today, and it's simply not true.
At this stage all that can be said for certain about the Brash/Exclusive Brethren relationship is that the Exclusive Brethren have targeted this election to help restore order to what they see as the social fabric of New Zealand, and that they have anointed Don Brash as their champion. We also know that they have spent in excess of $500,000 in pursuit of this goal.
What, if anything, Don Brash has promised the Exclusive Brethren in return remains a mystery.