Tuesday, January 18, 2005

This is weird:

Veiled sect hails Bush, Martinez

TALLAHASSEE - A mysterious committee backed by members of a secretive religious group whose members are forbidden to vote spent more than $500,000 on newspaper ads last year supporting President Bush and U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez.

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....

Steve Truan, owner of a Knoxville map store, was listed as the contact person for the group, which formed just days before the November election. He said the group likes to "fly beneath the radar" and refused to talk about the ads, all of which were placed by a Knoxville advertising agency whose owners refused to answer questions.

Calls to other members of the group were not returned....

--St. Petersburg Times

The BBC has more information on the Exclusive Brethren, as does Wikipedia. Peebs.net has even more, from a skeptical point of view. Click on "news" and scroll down for more information on this story, as well as a PDF of the November 2 New York Times ad, plus this, from November 1:

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 proclamation is from an officially still-recovering Bruce Hales [the leader of the church] who stated recently that:
"If George Bush and Tony Blair are not returned to office, then the Rapture is very near."
(Emphasis in the original.)

Actually this seems ike a perfect fit, if what the Wikipedia article says is correct:

To "protect the young from the world", EB parents are expected to school their children at home, or send them to one of the EB schools. The educational attainment of these young people is usually low. The EB rules have prohibited post-school education for over 40 years, so an educational deficiency is now apparent throughout the EB.

Notable features of the EB are good entrepreneurial skills and low dependency on state welfare programs. EB members are expected to give generously to "the Lord's servants" which results in a good income for those who rise to prominence in the EB hierarchy.

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