Brethren for Bush

The St. Petersburg Times (link snagged from God and Consequences) reports on a substantial donation made by a British member of the Exclusive Brethren for the publication of newspaper advertisements to assist the re-election of George W Bush:

The Thanksgiving 2004 Committee raised the money from residents of 18 states, plus $377,262 from Bruce Hazell of London, England. None of the money was raised in Florida, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The group of men who formed the committee belong to the Exclusive Brethren, a reclusive religious group with roots in England and Australia. The group includes members from Knoxville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., and other U.S. cities. Members of the Exclusive Brethren do not vote, read newspapers, watch television or participate in the outside world, according to published reports. So why would they care who gets elected in the United States?

That’s hard to say and members contacted by the St. Petersburg Times wouldn’t say anything except to praise President Bush and say they wanted to see him re-elected.

…Hazell, reached at his London office last week, said he is a member of the Brethren. He said the reasons he donated so much money to an American election committee were complicated and offered to explain later. When a reporter called him at the appointed hour, a secretary said Hazell “just popped out” and wouldn’t be back until next week. “He had to suddenly rush out,” she said.

St Petersburg Times first noticed the “Thanksgiving 2004 Committee” back in November, but a fuller account is available from Peebs.Net, a site run by ex-members of the Exclusive Brethren (the Exclusive Brethren itself does not have a website, as the internet is a tool of “the Man of Sin”). Peebs provides some theological background for this strange turn of events, but this serves only to highlight some other questions (Click on “News” on the Peebs site):

November 1st, 2004 (EB News) We have just received news that there will be a world-wide Exclusive Brethren Prayer Meeting at 06:00am tomorrow in order to “pray George W. Bush back into power”. The USA go to the polls tomorrow, Tuesday November 2nd, 2004, and the EB Proclamation indicates that the Prayer Event will commence at 6am in each EB Territory.

The proclamation is from an officially still-recovering Bruce Hales who stated recently that: “If George Bush and Tony Blair are not returned to office, then the Rapture is very near.”

Hales is the group’s leader (the “Elect Vessel of God”), and the 6:00am service time is normal. Peebs then asks the obvious question:

Mr Hales, we understand that you teach that the Rapture is the ‘Great Hope’ for the Church, the Bride of Christ. Why then do you not pray for John Kerry and thus support your own teachings?

Peebs also notes that:

The Exclusive Brethren used a Section 527 organization called Thanksgiving 2004 Committee to channel well over US$600,000 into the placement of large ads in certain politically sensitive areas. It would seem that the Exclusive Brethren enjoyed their experience enough to continue their political advocacy into 2005 with the formation of a new 527 group called Integrity 2005 Committee…The stated purpose of the new group is: “To engage in issue advocacy. Will not make contributions to state or federal candidates and will not engage in express advocacy for state or federal candidates”. This is the identical stated purpose of the preceding Thanksgiving 2004 Committee.

UPDATE: Actually, I’ve just found out that No More Mister Nice Blog blogged the Peebs source back on Tuesday.