A new book pieces together how the Exclusive Brethren sought to buy influence with the Liberal Party in its quest to stop the spread of -œperverted homosexuality and gay marriage.

No sin is more terrible in Brethren demonology than homosexuality, reporter Michael Bachelard discovered when interviewing ex-members for his book Behind the Exclusive Brethren. Gay members faced losing contact with their families forever if they came out.

One Albury man in the book left the Brethren and his family when he could no longer hide his homosexuality, and was lucky to keep regular supervised contact with his two young daughters.

However, when his wife became injured and was unable to care for their children, the Brethren still refused to let the gay man be with them, instead placing them with a stranger who was later convicted of sexually abusing them.

-œThe father was still living in the same town, but they didn’t even consider him, Bachelard said.

Although there has been no change in their position on homosexuality, Bachelard said since Bruce Hales took over as worldwide leader in 2002 he has tried to improve the way the Exclusive Brethren deal with ex-members who want to maintain relationships with their families still in the cult.

By the 2004 federal election, Hales reversed a 175-year tradition and entered the political process, telling his flock -œthe current situation has never been more critical.

Labor leader Mark Latham’s proposed private education shake-up could have severely cut their funding and independence, and recognition of same-sex unions was heating up as an issue.

The Brethren tried to keep quiet that they were spending hundreds of thousands in advertising against the Greens’ -œimmoral policies, Bachelard said, and by the 2007 election they had access to Prime Minister John Howard and six lobbyist passes sponsored by Liberal MPs including Tony Abbott and Brendan Nelson.

They’re unlikely to get too many audiences with the new federal Liberal leadership but that doesn’t mean the Brethren is giving up lobbying.

-œTheir best ally is gone. They may also try to revive contact with Labor MPs on the Right, Bachelard said.

info: Michael Bachelard will discuss the revelations in conversation with Julian Burnside at Readings in Hawthorn, Wednesday 22 October, 6.30pm. Bookings are free on 9819 1917.

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