The gay and lesbian community in NSW should prepare itself for an anti-gay campaign by notorious right-wing Christian group Exclusive Brethren, the Greens have warned.

The religious sect would probably try to drum up homophobic sentiment to influence voters in next year’s state election, Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon said.

You’d have to be very foolish to think the Exclusive Brethren didn’t have their eye on the upcoming NSW election, Rhiannon told Sydney Star Observer.

And attacking the gay and lesbian community seems to be one of their favourite tactics at the moment, she said.

The secretive group made headlines last week when New Zealand prime minister, Helen Clark, accused it of being behind a smear campaign suggesting her husband was gay.

When private detectives came forward and alleged they had been hired by the Exclusive Brethren to dig up dirt on Clark, the leader of New Zealand’s National Party, Don Brash, announced he would sever all links with the sect this week.

The group was also accused of spreading leaflets containing anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-Greens material in Tasmania before the state elections in March this year. The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board is investigating a complaint that the material incited hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

We need to be alert to the fact these are their tactics, Rhiannon said. Misusing people’s sexuality and making direct attacks on the gay community could well be on the agenda when you look at how these people operate.

This week prime minister John Howard revealed he had met with the Exclusive Brethren. While he found some of their beliefs unusual, he said they should be respected.

The Exclusive Brethren as an organisation within the law, a Christian sect, is entitled to put its view, Howard told ABC Radio.

Last week Victorian Nationals leader, Peter Ryan, confirmed he had met with members of the Exclusive Brethren, sparking fears of an anti-gay campaign in that state as well.

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