In the public interest. This article raises the issue of the link between religious influence and politicians in a secular nation state and how this impacts the larger secular society.
Courtesy of The Age.
It takes courage to expose scandals, particularly those involving allegations of sexual abuse, which continue to be whitewashed by powerful religious organisations such as the Exclusive Brethren. Michael Bachelard (Good Weekend and Saturday Age, 18/6) is to be congratulated for holding no punches.
I left this secretive sect in 1968 but, decades later, I cannot forget the impact of hearing confessions of sexual misdemeanours broadcast by the perpetrators over a public address system to the captive congregation, which often numbered many hundreds of shocked souls. Witnesses present on those occasions will remember that any notion of reporting these matters to the authorities would not be countenanced. The confessors would be forgiven or not by the church elders at their whim. Everyone in the congregation understood that the Brethren constituted the highest “court” in the land. Victims from those far off days who read this and still bear the shame should take heart from Bachelard’s compelling articles and speak out about their trauma.
It is no surprise that the Exclusive Brethren has gone into damage control and employed public relations spin doctors to launch denials and threats. This is proof of their lack of conscience and desperation to retain tax benefits and generous government handouts for their schools. Not all the bluster and bravado in the world, most notably their re-branding to the name of Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and claim to charitable works, can alter their sordid history.
Bachelard reveals the extent of the Brethren’s history of donations to the Liberal Party. Will the Prime Minister follow his predecessors in counting the Exclusive Brethren among his friends and take their tainted money, or will he take the moral high ground and distance his party from any association with this extremist Christian sect? The federal election is in crucial countdown mode. The message to Malcolm Turnbull is clear. He needs look no further than the 2007 election when the sitting prime minister lost his seat of Bennelong, in no small part due to the reaction of voters over revelations of the Liberal Party’s secret dealings with the Exclusive Brethren.
Joy Nason, Neutral Bay, NSW
The underhanded nature of political funding
Politicians clearly have no shame. The fact that the Liberals accepted “secret co-ordinated donations” from the Exclusive Brethren highlights the underhanded nature of political parties, especially when it comes to funding their operations. There appears to be a lack of moral standards, both on the part of donors and recipients. This story should have been emblazoning on page one. The $26.6million in government funding for the Brethren’s private schools is the icing on the cake. This is reprehensible in light of the parlous state that our government schools are in. Anyone who thinks this is acceptable needs to have their moral compass mended because theirs is broken. I am sure that the Labor Party has its cosy arrangements with various organisations, too.
David Legat, South Morang
Union funding wrong. Brethren funding OK.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemns the Labor Party for receiving money from trade unions yet defends funding to his own party from the secretive Exclusive Brethren. Also, Mafia figures donated tens of thousands of dollars to the discredited NSW Liberal Party fundraising vehicle, the Millennium Forum, as part of an ultimately successful campaign to allow a known criminal to stay in Australia (The Age, 29/6/15). Rather hypocritical, don’t you think?
John Cain, McCrae
Our two-tiered system
I retired 10years ago after a long career teaching in government secondary schools. Schools were better resourced under Labor governments (state and federal) than when the Coalition held the reins. The combination of the Kennett government and Howard government broke the state system’s back through the former’s assault on schools, and the latter’s less direct, but just as impactful, unequal funding of elite private institutions.
The last school I taught at touted for international students, and the main motivation was money. Little preparation was made for their educational needs. I felt angry and ashamed. Now, in order to gather more funds, teachers in government schools are being “rented out” to private schools (The Age, 17/6). I am despondent that education in this country has perhaps become the most divisive, two-tiered system in the Western world. Until we have one public education system, fully resourced and invested in by all Australians, we can not mature as a nation.
Meg Stuart, Forest Hill
Educating our youth
Maybe Victoria’s crime statistics (The Age, 17/6) would not be so bad if the young people concerned were in a school or TAFE institute, being educated with a view to getting a worthwhile job, or in an apprenticeship. Labor has pledged to establish 10 new “tech schools” (The Age, 27/4). It should open more. Also, the old technical schools should never have been shut down.
Lorraine Bates, Surrey Hills