Government is Picking on Us: Exclusive Brethren

An Exclusive Brethren member has spoken out about the sect’s walk- on role in the country’s recent political soap opera, saying they have been unfairly targeted by the Government.

Matthew Goudie spoke to the Manawatu Standard yesterday after a meeting of local and national church members was held in Palmerston North at the weekend.

Mr Goudie refused to say how long he has been involved with the church, but the Standard understands he is a prominent member of the Manawatu branch.

“We feel unfairly targeted,” Mr Goudie said.

“We see what happens in the papers, but I don’t really know what to comment about it. I certainly would say it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

The group has been used by the Government to score political points, Mr Goudie said.

His comments come after allegations levelled at the Brethren of spreading rumours about Prime Minister Helen Clark’s husband and hiring a private investigator to dig dirt on senior Labour MPs.

The Government has retaliated by moving to scrap labour laws prohibiting union officials from entering workplaces run by the Exclusive Brethren. The exemption was based on the church’s abstention from involvement in mainstream politics.

National Party leader Don Brash’s links with the church have come under the microscope, but Mr Goudie said the Exclusive Brethren are not affiliated with any political party “per se”.

“Our goal is to have a better government that will give the people good leadership in terms of good moral principles and a better standard of living.”

Asked if Dr Brash’s alleged extra- marital affair fits with the Exclusive Brethren’s principles, Mr Goudie said: “I have no comment about Don Brash’s private life”.

“The Brethren don’t involve themselves with a party for the sake of the party. They support the right moral leadership and principles for the good of every New Zealander, not just the Brethren.”

Mr Goudie said there are about 500 Exclusive Brethren in the greater Palmerston North area. They do not have a leader “as such”.

“We’re just a group of Brethren who get together in a coordinated way.”

Most National MPs who were offered campaign assistance from the Brethren in the run- up to last year’s election accepted it, but Rangitikei MP Simon Power said yesterday he declined.

“The only comment I’m prepared to make (about the sect) is that I was offered assistance and I politely declined.”

Former Exclusive Brethren member Ngaire Thomas, who wrote a novel exposing the inner workings of the ultraconservative group, said it has changed dramatically since Australian Bruce Hales became its Elect Vessel in 2003.

“I think they’ve shifted from a spiritual, faith-based group to a commercial group,” Mrs Thomas said.

Speaking from Australia, where she moved from Palmerston North earlier this year, she said the change of leadership has sparked its involvement in politics, which was previously prohibited.

Mrs Thomas grew up, married and raised her children in the church, before being excommunicated about 30 years ago.

In her 2003 novel Behind Closed Doors, she detailed the strict rules under which members live.

“Their behaviour tears families apart. It’s the worst kind of family abuse.”

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This post was last updated: Friday, December 16, 2016 at 10:56 AM, Central European Time (CET)