On June 5, Greens leader Bob Brown met Exclusive Brethren elders over his proposal for a Senate inquiry into the secretive group. Last month the Senate rejected the inquiry. Both sides recorded the encounter, with these excerpts from Senator Brown’s transcript of the meeting with the Brethren’s Richard Garrett, David Thomas and David McAlpin.
ON THE PROPOSAL FOR AN INQUIRY
Richard Garrett: It amounts to religious vilification.
Bob Brown: This is a reaction to a very organised pattern of attack on the Greens €¦ a misleading attack on the Greens €¦ and with it has come information about the trauma and hurt that so many people have endured who have been excommunicated from the Exclusive Brethren €¦ I don’t like to see families who are broken up.
RG: Mr Brown, it’s sin that breaks up families €¦ Exclusive Brethren are very family-oriented.
ON GAY RELATIONSHIPS
Bob Brown: As you probably know, I’m gay and I have a same-sex partner and that’s a loving relationship.
David Thomas: But that’s against, that’s against — we repel it because it’s against God’s word.
BB: God is love, you know. It may be against a written scripture, but you know there is a lot in the scripture that would be horrified if it were brought into reality and were carried out in its literal word.
DT: We don’t want to debate it €¦ I’m just saying my reaction to it when you read Romans 1, I mean it’s what happens. People get themselves so perverted and they just can’t think morally.
BB: My thinking may have been like that many, many years ago. But I’ve realised that God has created a very diverse world in which love is a big key and hate is a very big foe. But we get ourselves into trouble when we think we can define where the boundaries are where love should be cut short.
Richard Garrett: We’ve got to discern, we’re mixing up love and lust. Now you referred to yourself personally, it certainly wasn’t my, I mean I didn’t intend to bring it up at all. You’re happy to, I appreciate that. My concern is when policies like that, same-sex marriages, are being put forward as it’s becoming law. Government making provision for same-sex marriages, now that is completely and utterly wrong. It’s against God.
BB: My view is that it is completely and utterly right and it’s part of God’s creation.
RG: It’s not, it’s not.
THE BRETHREN AND POLITICS
David Thomas: The Brethren have not made an attack on the Greens.
Bob Brown: €¦ I don’t believe you are being truthful there.
DT: The Brethren have never discussed it in public as a church, never. There’s never been funds from the church, there’s never been any funds from the schools into what’s political €¦
BB: No other Christian group has campaigned like the Exclusive Brethren in recent elections €¦
Richard Garrett: It is individuals. It’s not Exclusive Brethren as a body or church. It is concerned individuals who have taken the initiative, yes.
BB: I think that’s a feint. And I think you know very well, just from talking to you gentlemen today, it’s very clear that there is an embedded disagreement with the policies of the Greens. I think you’ll find you have disagreement with the policies of the other political parties as well.
RG: Well, I mean that’s understandable, if they’re against scripture, if they’re against God, any member of the Exclusive Brethren will have difficulty.
ON GOD AND GOVERNMENT
Bob Brown: We’ve got a Government that, I believe quite immorally, doesn’t divert taxes in a responsible fashion to people who are have-nots.
David McAlpin: They’re God’s ministers €¦
BB: Well, no, they’re secular ministers.
DM: They’re God’s ministers for good.
Richard Garrett: The government’s of God.
BB: Well, then, I’m God’s senator for good as well, you see.
DM: God is placing a person in government €¦
BB: Then God’s placed me here, sir.
David Thomas: Well, he’s got you in a Senate place.
RG: As your office, we respect your office. We must do that, but I personally, Mr Brown, feel sorry for you. I feel very sorry for you.
BB: Don’t waste your sorrow, let me tell you.