Friday, October 01, 2004

Family First- One Christian's View

Author's note:
Those interested by this essay will also appreciate my TV interview with Jana Wendt on the same subject where I expand on these issues (given about nine months after the events depicted here). Full details are elsewhere on this same website at THIS LINK.

This essay was written by me prior to the Australian Federal election in October 2004. I subsequently removed it, not because the facts were wrong or because I had changed my opinion, but as a courtesy to people whom I respected, and who had claimed that I had prematurely expressed opinions without fairly giving them a chance to put their side of the story to me. I assumed my gesture would be a precursor to a proper debate on the matter. I was wrong. I have re-posted my original article as of July 4 2005 directly as a consequence of their deliberate refusal to even as much as broach the subject. If my heartfelt invitation had been accepted, this and further comment on this website would not be here.


Part One: Why Does This Matter

Part Two: How Family First Handles the Media

Part Three: Legal and Ethical Concerns

Part One: Why does this matter?

Voltaire said "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."

For the benefit of the wider audience: I am a member of 16 years standing in the Assemblies of God Church. The people in question are all men and women whom I love, look up to, or grew up with. I ascribe to them the teachings that are responsible for the strength of my marriage, the depth of my personal faith in Jesus, and my conviction that we are called to make a difference in the world around us.

So why would I write what (an unfortunate few) will characterise as an attack on my Church?

Well, the answer is that it isn't an attack on my Church at all. Family First is a self-confessed secular political party who claim no spiritual authority over anyone. The principles that would rightly restrain me from launching an unconscionable attack on my leaders as Pastors do not apply when they are seeking advantage in the marketplace of political ideas. I happen to support a different political party. The miracle of Australian democracy is that I can do so and, hopefully, remain friends with those with whom I differ in opinion. If Family First are indeed the secular political party that they claim, then their policies (which I support), and their methods (which I don't) are fair game.

So, allow me to make this distinction, and ask you to do the same. I love my Pastors and I love my Church. I just think that they don't make very good politicians, and nor should they try, if it results (as it has) in a denial of Jesus Christ and draws the mockery of non-Christians.

Differences of opinion in the Church (and not just our Church) are far more likely to be seen as "undermining the vision" or "not fully committed to partnering" or being "unteachable". Such people then get short shrift and sometimes the welcome mat is withdrawn. The problem, of course is that this may be true! I'm absolutely committed to my Church. Hawkesbury Church is my home and, believe me, I've had to defend it in my home more than you have in yours, mate. People can and frequently have said unkind things about the Church with the sole intent of bellyaching. So how do we bring a legitimate grievance to our leadership without being branded persona non grata?

Well, the first and most important thing is for us to each watch our own attitudes. Trust me, I've been royally p**** at a dozen different things over the years but, each and every time, I center myself and apply the desideratum "A bad attitude means that the possibility I'm feeling what I am because God wants me to change it is probably zero." There are plenty of times where I've stopped myself from doing things (like writing letters to bonehead Creationists. There, I've exposed my secret vice), because a moment of reflection causes me to realise that my motives were wrong. They were personal, and not based on a conviction that my actions were a) helpful and b) directed by the Spirit.

The Second thing is to get your facts straight. I was happy enough to see Family First as "Mostly Harmless" in the Douglas Adams sense, until Pastor Ian Woods mentioned the flurry of media attention the party had received over the last week in the papers. I read the article(s) he pointed out in last Saturday's Herald, and did some digging of my own. My view has changed.

My Dander is now Officially Up. Those who know me well will testify my Dander is not to be trifled with. (I might add that this would sound more dignified if I hadn't looked up the dictionary and found that "dander" is basically bird dandruff. This shows that the people that coin these phrases ought to be more careful)

I am writing as a concerned citizen and as a concerned Christian, in equal measure. Don't take an argument I'm making about a self-confessed secular political party with views on strange subjects that simply won't work and turn it into an attack on my commitment to Jesus or to our Church. Nor should you accuse me of secretly supporting the Greens. I'm not that stupid.

Part Two: How Family First Handles the Media:

a) In Queensland:
Ronald Reagan wasn't a President well known for his command of detail. "The Great Communicator" was, however a master of winning a crowd over. In 1980, running for the Presidency for the first time, he attended a huge charismatic Christian gathering. Here was a constituency that would be valuable if he could win it over. National Church leaders were careful to explain their dilemma to the aspirant before he took the stage. "You understand," they explained, "we aren't political. We can't be seen to endorse one political party over another. It just isn't proper." These leaders had previously given tacit endorsement to Jimmy Carter in 1976, only to be disappointed by his Presidency. Reagan mused. "Fine." he said and approached the podium. "I know you can't endorse me, but I want you to know that I endorse you." The quote launched the Christian Conservative movement as a political force in the U.S.

It's a shame that the operators behind the Family First party haven't shown as much wisdom in handling the obvious connections between their party and the Church. This matter would have merely been picky if it weren't for the fact that both the party and the Church are coming in for escalating, withering criticism (like The Chaser Decides on the ABC last night with their mock news headline "Family First party denies Jesus Christ three time before cock crows"). It made me feel embarrassed.

The Family First website has issued several press releases in the last week or two to clarify the issues. The first one made this claim:

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: The (Family First) party is not a church party or an Assembly of God party, nor is it funded by AOG churches."

The second one that was released yesterday was even more emphatic:

"Recent media reports have labelled Family First Party a "Christian party" and, in some cases, an offshoot of mainstream Christian church, Assemblies of God. Lead Queensland Senate candidate, John Lewis, said that the labelling of the party bordered on slander."

Read that twice. The Family First party are so angry about being associated with the Assemblies of God that, in the view of Queensland Senate candidate John Lewis, it amounts to slander.

Now read this July release from the desk of Wayne Alcorn, president of the Queensland Assemblies of God:


"FAMILY FIRST

By now you would be aware that Pastor John Lewis will be standing for the Senate at the next Federal election... As ministers of the Gospel, we must have a genuine sense of responsibility as we watch our social fabric deteriorate. We all need to handle political issues wisely, and though we have no right to tell our people how to vote, I urge you to:

1. Call your people to pray leading up to this next election.
2. Be aware of what each candidate stands for. Where necessary, meet with them prior to the election.
3. Encourage your people to vote for men and women who will stand for righteous values &endash; not just play some party line."

Proof that the Queensland Churches "got the message" about who they should support is indicated by a story that appeared in an article in the Sunshine Coast Daily on 26 Sept:

"Parishioner upset at mix of politics and religion: 'Get politics out of my church'.
That was the call by a disgruntled Nambour parishioner yesterday after a campaigner for a political party interrupted a Pentecostal church service to appeal for financial donations and volunteers.

The parishioner, who declined to be named, said he was angered when a volunteer for the fledgling Family First party was allowed to make a 15 minute political advertisement mid way through a recent Nambour Assembly of God service."

In conclusion:

Family First denies that it is not funded by AOG members, and yet complaints of soliciting campaign funding and support through Churches are reported in the papers.

A Family First candidate responds angrily to the mere suggestion that they are associated with the Assemblies of God, accusing those who do so of slander. Meanwhile, the State President offers fulsome praise of exactly the same man (and obviously with his approval), thinly disguised by the non-disclaimer that "of course, we don't tell anyone how to vote." Hypocrisy!

b) In New South Wales:

In New South Wales, the Family First party has come in for a deal of media scrutiny about the same connections between itself and the Church. A SMH report on the 25th of Sept (website link, or PDF) contains this quote:

'Joan Woods, from the Family First party and wife of the president of the Assemblies of God church in NSW, is adamant: there's "absolutely no connection" between the two organisations. Church and state are absolutely separate, says the party's lead NSW Senate candidate. There is no funding link between the two, indeed no formal link at all. "Not in any file, in any legally written document, in [the party] constitution," she says, a little indignantly.'

If this isthe case, then this email from Michael Murphy, deputy President of the NSW Executive may be a little hard to explain. Fully in the public domain, this letter was circulated to every Pastor of an AOG Church in NSW. Extract:


"Dear Pastor, As you are probably aware, God is doing a unique thing right now …I need to inform you of our latest such opportunity that Joan Woods, our own President's wife, has just accepted. Joan has been asked to represent the Family First Party as their Federal Senate Candidate for NSW. Whenever one of our own takes such a stand, I think we have a responsibility on a number of fronts.

1. Pray 2. Support - wherever possible."

You will recall that Ian Woods made an emphatic statement from the pulpit that the "Assemblies of God is not a political movement. We are a movement, but not a political one. We do not support any particular party." If such an email had come directly from the State President of the AOG, such an email would have been wholly improper. Is it any less improper if it is sent by his deputy?

c) Nationally:

The Sydney Morning Herald front page story on September 21 (website link, PDF), "So God said: go to NSW and create poll mayhem" contains the following quote:

"Pastor Brian Houston, the national president of the Assemblies of God church, said several people from the church supported Family First. 'But as far as I am aware there is no instruction on how Assemblies of God is to vote,' Pastor Houston said."

Please! I can picture Pastor Brian with furrowed brow, scuffing the ground with the toe of his shoe. "Family First, Family First... hmmm. I don't know. I feel I should know that from somewhere, but... nup, nuthin to do with us! "

Meanwhile, will Joan Woods or other Family First candidates attend services at one or more of the Hillsong campuses this Sunday to be "presented" to the congregation, only one week from polling day? Watch this space, based on one rumour passed on. One wonders how many other political parties will receive such a boost from Brian Houston?

Part Three: Legal and Ethical Concerns

All Federal Elections in Australia are governed by the Commonwealth Electoral act of 1912. Several sections deal with situations where improper influence or a lack of full independence on the part of a candidate can result in a conflict of interest. The Australian Electoral Commission has a primer on such matters at its website. Section 326 of the Act, says (in part):

A person shall not, with the intention of influencing or affecting… any candidature of another person; or any support of… a candidate… or a political party by another person… give or confer…, any property or benefit of any kind to that other person or to a third person.
Penalty: $5,000 or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.

It is also true that It is also true that of the 23 candidates that are standing in lower house seats in NSW, fully 10 are from the Hawkesbury Church. Five are paid staff at Hawkesbury Church. These are:

  • Jon Dorhauer standing in Greenway (Riverstone),
  • Carolyn Dorhauer standing in Robertson (Gosford),
  • Cat Cannone standing in Watson (Hurstville),
  • Michael Woods, standing in Hunter (Cessnok),
  • Melanie Woods standing in Calare (Bathurst)

A small but noteworthy point is that several fail to disclose their association with Hawkesbury Church in their candidate information forms lodged with the AEC. The others are members of the Church who have never expressed political aspirations before.

Unfortunately, perusing this list of candidates also reveals another embarrassing fact. Here we have over ten political aspirants engaging in the political process. Absolutely none of them come from the electorates they are seeking to represent. I would wager that none of them could give a list of the six most pressing issues that dwell on the minds of people living in those electorates, nor would any be willing to move themselves and their families to those electorates in the event they won the seat.

The reason this is embarrassing is because Family First had previously made a virtue of the fact that the "overwhelming majority of its candidates are local". For example, look at two press releases from the Family First website:

"Monday, 6th September 2004 - Senate Battle is really between Greens and Family First "
"...Standing over 100 House of Rep. candidates - The vast majority of candidates are local "

and again in a second press release a week later:

"Tuesday, 14th September 2004 - Family First Now Fourth Major Party "
"The Family First Party on debut in the Federal Election will have 126 candidates across the nation, with the majority living in the electorate they are standing for. "

Hawkesbury Church and the NSW Senate Lead Candidate are offering up 10 candidates (plus a handful who are affiliated with Hawkesbury Church). What's their track record on local representation? Zero.

I could forgive those good people in Bathurst, or Hurstville, or Cessnok from being a little bit cynical about the representation they are being offered, let alone in Greenway where the Liberal candidate (Louise Marcus) is an AOG employee (via an external welfare agency), and yet the Family First candidate, AOG Pastor John Dorhauer is being gagged from pushing anything except the party line "No, we don't have anything to do with the AOG." Louise Marcus is tipped to win the seat from Labor by a wafer thin margin, largely through Family First preferences.

Although I support the efforts of Christians to aspire to elected office (and have myself done so on several occasions), the paramount concern is that candidates do so within the boundaries of the law. Beyond the legal requirements, I would also say that candidates who profess a Christian faith ought to also stand in an ethical manner, and not rely on subterfuge and denial in an attempt to gain a wider constituency. All candidates who stand for elected office in any sphere are charged with a solemn responsibility to be legitimate and sincere in seeking to represent the citizens of that electorate. Standing candidates for other purposes is misleading and, in the words of Aquinas, "Leads the truth of our faith to become a matter of ridicule among the infidels." Well put.

In reality, standing these lower house candidates is really to aid the Family First campaign in the Senate. Joan Woods has been candid about this, stating to SMH journalist Mike Seccombe (Website link, PDF):

'Mrs Woods concedes that almost all the Family First candidates are AOG adherents. She concedes many of them have only been in politics for a few weeks and many don't even live in the seats they are standing for. "We're just a young party," she says. "I have to use what I've got in my hand in terms of my network, and those that relate to me. See, what I needed to do was field as many candidates as I could in the lower house..."

The reason is, while the lower house candidates have little chance of election, the party needed their 'bulk' to become a player in the preference-swapping game, and increase Mrs Woods' chances of winning the Senate seat.'


Of Course. Nor should we blame Joan Woods for the strategy, because it was the way Family First conducted their campaign in South Australia and got Andrew Evans elected. The Family First press release "15th September - The Polls vs Family First" explains the party's success in the South Australian parliament, despite not

"fielding a full complement of lower house candidates to support the upper house candidates." but then going on to state "At this election we will have a full complement of candidates in Tas, Qld, SA and Vic, as well as a large number of seats in NSW and WA."

This is further proof that the lower house candidates are there to support a Senate campaign. I'm not denying that this practice isn't common. Many minor parties do it, and at all levels of government. I'm merely suggesting that the practice is fairly cynical one and insults the citizens of those electorates where they stand- especially if the candidates have no affinity or connection with those communities.

Family First went with their cap in hand to the other parties recently to say "Hey, we got over 4% of the vote in our only electoral showing to date (in S.A) and you should sign here (website link, PDF) to a) support our policies and b) give us a good preference deal." Indeed, Family First claim "some candidates have been asked to sign a three-year voting agreement on certain Family First policy platforms before preferences are included in any deal." Here's the irony: With so many candidates having little or no connection to their electorates, that figure of "over 100 lower house candidates" is actually a whole lot less impressive that it first looks. Most of those candidates will be likely to get maybe a few dozen votes. Not exactly an earth-shaking influence. The other parties may well have been duped by the overstatement of Family First's influence. Should Christians seek political advantage in this way?

This leads me back to the Electoral Act. Legal precedent regarding section 326 interestingly includes feelings of "created feelings of gratitude or obligation" in their definition of "benefit". So, in that context, let's ask these questions:

1) Have any candidacies been influenced in contravention to the spirit of section 326?

Consider: Strong and proven encouragement of the State AOG executives for others to assist in the promotion of Family First candidates. The fact that ten members (and five employees) of one Church who have never expressed political aspirations before are now standing in various seats for which they have neither residency nor affinity.

2) Would any of these candidates have otherwise stood for election in their chosen seats, except for the fact that they were doing so at the behest of their employer, and because of the substantial links and expectation that all AOG employees/members will "do their duty"?

3) Did all candidates pay for their candidacy fees from their own pockets?

I would suggest that the answer to these questions do not rely on whether they "chose" to stand in line with their democratic right to participate in the parliamentary process. I am sure that all will claim that their candidacies were voluntary and lawful. As indeed they were! My question is: Are such actions ethical?


- Nathan Zamprogno

61 comments:

C D M said...

Nathan, my heartfelt thanks, appreciation and admiration for this excellent analysis of the situation.
It is all the more amazing that it comes from within the ranks of the AOG itself.

I'm not a Christian, but I have been down that path many years ago. I'm not anti-religion, just anti bible-bashing. Religion belongs in the hearts and minds of individuals and within their homes and churches. It doesn't belong in parliament.

I don't like the idea of organisations canvassing their wares (be they sex, drugs, politics or religion) on my doorstep under the guise of something other than what they really are. It doesn't matter whether they are offering me free recipe books (Hare Krishnas) free personality tests (Scientology) or just free family (FF). At the end of the day they are all selling religion.

If Family First had come out at the beginning and honestly stated that they were wanting to be elected on Christian principles and that they want legislation to reflect those principles, I'd have much less of a problem with them.

It is their dishonesty that riles me. They hide their light under the biblical bushel!

s said...

Nathan, this is a gutsy post given the difficult position you find yourself in. Is it legal? I can't tell, it sounds not. Is it ethical? As a (non-AOG)Christian, I think not. Just more dirty politics. Hardly Christ first. Hardly salt and light. I am putting Family First last.

Stephen said...

Hi dude

Heard the Federal Leader of family First get trult excoriated by John Laws on Wednesday - and he continued on Thursday and today (Friday) to beat an anti-Family First drum: "dishonest" was his best comment. Why do the FF have so much trouble explaing their POV? At least rehearse so pat lines like every other pollie before going live on air. Even Pauline Hanson sounded credible by comparison.

Anonymous said...

Well Nathan, that's a good start.
Two posts and you show
- your independence
- your brains and
- your sense of humour.

Ah, the power of civil discourse. I hope a heap of AOGers are on the internet.

- David Tiley

Anne said...

Dear Nathan

Your post is obviously well researched and it is also very well written. Some honesty in your faith is certainly a breath of fresh air.
Thank you for that.
May your God be with you.

Warm regards
Anne

Anonymous said...

How many time have the Family First party denied Jesus this night? I think I hear a cock crowing!

Cheers,
David...

Anonymous said...

I have no problems with a party taking an openly Christian line with its policies, but strongly believe that this Party is not being honest & is hiding behind its clever branding - Family First, in an attempt to deceive voters.

Family First = Family Fraud

Jan said...

Thanks for this. I've been very wary of them too.This is a brave post you have written. I've linked to it in my blog. Hope you don't mind.
Shalom,
Jan
http://shalomsweblog.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

yes I too believe they have been dishonest in their disclosure and would appreciate their stance on policies that most religious cults would take issue with...for example gay marriage, abortion, etc....would hate for a little party like FF to have the balance of power and have the teachings of a book that may or may not be true sway their decisions.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Zamprogno said...

The previous post was removed because it quoted huge tracts of a transcript of a ABC Radio National report from the show "The Religion Report" which took up the Family First issue. I thought it would be better to just include the link to that article:

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/relrpt/stories/s1209308.htm

Anonymous said...

Sunday, 3 October 2004

Congratulations on having the courage to follow the strength of your convictions; do not allow the dark side of human nature to question your ‘faith’ or your belief of who you are!

In terms of History and the challenges that are evident between the politics of Religion in politics, no matter what ‘belief’ or choice anyone exercises or subscribes to there is a need to be aware of how emotions can and are manipulated, how and where these manipulations are manifested, exerted and implemented to change people’s attitudes whilst the nature of issues at hand may be difficult.

Where injustice in any shape, form or manner exists then misplaced tolerance or misplaced forbearance can actually be beneficial to assisting a very destructive, negative activity.

I have borrowed these thoughts from a very wise man, who lives his life simply in the service of humanity with humility – his holiness The Dalai Lama.

Where most of humanity runs into difficulty is precisely with the differing emotional, psychological and ‘philosophical’ natures of the human spirit and in what way they should be lived or translated for living.

The duplicity that you have brought forward to awareness and open consciousness has this very day been exposed on the Sunday Program in an Interview with Laurie Oaks and the individual responsible for such divisiveness.

When you feel the time is right it may be worthwhile to introduce yourself to ‘A Road Less travelled’ – you may be quite surprised at the similarity of what you find.

Gary said...

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for airing your views. I respect your right to vent over something you feel strongly about. Here's my 2c...

Most of the media (with the help of the Greens) have been desperately mud-slinging FF, whilst their policies have gone largely ignored. People/reporters can hardly believe that a party can arise so quickly, fielding so many candidates and have no ulterior motive (or svengali as one article put it). Adjectives used to describe FF include: conspiracy, extremist, fundamentalist, anti-woman, un-Christian, hate motivated (thanks mainly to BB). The fact is that they are ordinary people who have a common goal to see families strengthened and the Greens are nervous.

I am concerned about the political direction we are headed in. I am concerned that my children will reap the consequences of the silent majority sitting by whilst the Greens strategically increase their power-base. I imagine my kids asking the question years from now "How did things get so bad?" and I do NOT want my response to be "Because I let it get that way". This motivates me to do something now before it IS too late.

Do you honestly believe that everything is dandy and that FF should just crawl away and let those with only pure motives (!!?!?) lead our nation? I believe Australian voters need a viable alternative - a party with widespread representation that has decent, common-sense policies. A party that will safeguard our families.

I am standing as a FF candidate in the Victorian seat of Chisholm in which I live. I have no affiliation with the AOG and paid the candidacy fees from my own pocket.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan

I am a Christian who endorses the usage of all our God-given faculties, including our abilities to reason according to the measure of intellect, common sense and reason He has given us!

Thankfully I have been spared the propoganda you have encountered. Keep your chin up... there are still some of us out there that are not bowing to manipulative techniques of group mentality.

Take care and God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Being one who was once in this line of churches, I am not surprised to read your comments about Family Fraud. It's because these people are out of touch with reality that I now attend a different church. Thanks Nathan.

Penno said...

In response to Gary's comments above, where I think the point was missed somewhat.

Yes it's true, most of the media, with alot of help from the Greens, have been slinging some mud in the direction of Family First. The reasons for which were highlighted in Nathans post. All the parties cop this in one way or another; The Greens a case in point, being labelled extremist in one of the biggest scare campaigns (interest rates anyone?) of the election.

Nathan's point wasn't that everything is "fine and dandy" and I didn't get the impression that he disagreed with the platform and policies of Family First. He was asking the question, are the means to which Family First are achieving their goals ethical?

I'd be interested to hear your (or a like minded persons) opinion on this...

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is summed up in what samwise said:

> If Family First had come out at the beginning and honestly stated that they were wanting to be elected on Christian principles and that they want legislation to reflect those principles, I'd have much less of a problem with them.

>It is their dishonesty that riles me. They hide their light under the biblical bushel!

I find most of what they endorse inline with my views, but have issues with the lack of transperancy.

I will vote for them on Sept 9th on the basis of their policies, and hope that the problems they have at the moment are due to political inexperience.

As was highlighted in the Herald Sun (http://heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,10838521^25717,00.html) "few journalists treat Christianity seriously" and the reluctance to highlight their christian begingings is due to this bias.

Their hearts are in the right place. Lets hope that their heads will follow! :)

Gary said...

As a party we strive to maintain a high level of integrity in all our activities. Mistakes will be made and lessons learnt the hard way. FF have achieved an amazing amount in such a short time and with the rapid growth and urgent need for volunteers it is inevitable that problems will occur. I'm not trying to justify all that has been said and done, but would ask that people give us a fair go.

Anonymous said...

I note some interesting (and none too flattering) attention is continuing in the media, particularly zeroing in on some of the characters you've identified in your article.

Fundamentally, my main point of agreement with you is that Family First are offering what ought to be palatable policies, but that their message is being thoroughly poisoned by their shameful and deceptive conduct in denying their obvious roots. It's such a shame that they feel the need to deny their faith in Christ for the purposes of pursuing naked political ambition.

John Howard got royally grilled by Laurie Oakes on the Sunday show on the question of Family First. Wasn't the guy mentioned, John Lewis, the the guy who said suggested links to the Church were slanderous? He's quoted as saying that "through the Family First Party we can proclaim that Australia is the great south land of the Holy Spirit." Yeah. No Church links there.

And I also note your Pastor (Ian Woods?) claiming that the AOG doesn't endorse one political party over another. Did you notice the 7.30 report last night where Andrew Evans is confronted by a letter, supposedly written by himself, and wholeheartedly endorsing Joan Woods? Here's the relevant section of the commentary:

ANDREW EVANS:Obviously many of them were church people because of our values - they came to that.

And because of my background - being in Assemblies of God - people came to it, but there's no connection in any shape or form. There's no minute, no constitution document.

We have no connection whatsoever and I made that very clear from the beginning.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But what about this?

A letter sent by Andrew Evans to all Assemblies of God pastors in NSW?

It states: "Together we can support one another in a mission to protect family values."

It then quotes Family First Senate candidate Joan Woods proclaiming: "The time has come to influence our nation and change the course of history by being a member of the Family First Party."

Joan Woods' husband Ian is the President of the NSW Assemblies of God.

ANDREW EVANS: I didn't write this letter. This was written by Ian Woods.He asked me to put my name on the bottom of it, which I did.GEOFF HUTCHISON: It then, with your name, calls on pastors to encourage membership, volunteers and donations.

How sanctimonious! Asking someone else to sign a letter you've written in support of your own wife's Senate tilt, sending it to every AOG Church in NSW and then denying that you don't support one party over another to your own congregation.

For what it's worth, here's what a bit of Googling has turned up. Ian and Joan Woods are also "Executive Pastors" at Devonport AOG Church. Here's what one minister at that Church had to say about the elections. This is taken from a sermon that has mysteriously disappeared from the Church website in the last week. The sermon title was "How to Vote" by John Clark but is no longer available.

"Right now if you're a born again believer, if you've trusted in the sacrifice that Jesus has made, then you belong to God. You have no choices any more because you belong to God. God owns you completely. You have no more rights... So that vote you get? Your vote hasn't been given to you by the government, or by democracy. It has been given to you by God to serve God with."

"Israel invited God's anger by selecting leadership without consulting him. I don't want you to attract God's anger in a couple of weeks (when you vote), by electing people without consulting him. How would you like to be an anger magnet?

"We need to select Godly candidates... vote with your Christian convictions, not your party loyalties.

"Right across our nation, suddenly there is a party that has sprung up, it's the Family First party. Wayne (indicates member of Devonport AOG Church) is standing... Well done Wayne!... God is raising up the Church to bring great influence. In every newspaper, Pastor Ian only texted me last night, saying that a big picture of Ian and Joan is going in the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian was featuring them as well".

End quote.

Presumably those are the stories Nathan has already cited. Never mind that those stories were not necessarily complimentary. What followed was then a reminder of the previous Sunday, where Family First were allowed to take the service after the message and proselytize for support, and also an appeal for the following night where a candidate information evening was being held for all local candidates. Chuchgoers were urged to attend to "freak the other candidates out". He finishes by stating that the Church, ultimately, is called to have more than influence, but to have "dominion" over the world.

If this is truly the standard of manipulation carried out by AOG churches, then it's a scary, scary world we're all living in. You can't say "we don't tell people how to vote" in one breath and then a) Anonymously abuse your own executive position in the Church to push for your wife's campaign or b) Tell people you don't tell them how to vote BUT have pastors who answer to you tell their congregations that voting against God's wishes will invite God's wrath... and then only bother to mention one political party (Family First) as one of the parties worth considering.

I know of a lot of good community work a charismatic Church does in my own town, although their affiliation is not known to me. Examining the methods of Family First (Family Fraud I've heard them called) has put me off them, for good. I'm voting for Fred Nile.

Anonymous said...

See also this story in the Sydney Morning Herald where it is
revealed that Family First's wish list include "better
tax treatment for ministers of religion"
Really? Not that you would find that on the Family
First website
. The policy documents of "Australia's Fouth largest
party" on the subject of Tax runs to exactly one page. Wow.

Ministers of religion already get huge tax breaks, and they want
more? I wish I only had to pay tax on half my income.

The same story also makes mention of Hillsong's support for Family
First. But Pastor Brian Houston denied they support Family First!
What a travesty.

Lastly, a Family First volunteer was accused of throwing eggs at
volunteers for another party, after screaming at them that Lesbians
should be burned at the stake
.

Looks like Church and Politics shoudn't mix. Just my two bits
worth.

Anonymous said...

I have been a Christian for ten years now and attend an AOG church. Having gathered information over the last few weeks on the issues created by the rise of the Family First party I am becoming increasingly disturbed by what appears to be a complete disregard for ethics and also the blatant insult on the intelligence of the Australian public.
There are those in this world who die for the right and privelage to vote. People like Carolyn Dorhauer need to remember that this is a serious business that she has entered into - she and others like her who have zero political aspirations have unethically offered themselves up as a political preference pushing pawn to a public who now have to wade through the muck of false candidates to find someone who not only gives a damn about them but actually lives within a hundred kilometres of the electorate! I think the best lesson some of these people could learn would be if they actually got in and then had to do the work!

Anonymous said...

Reading the press release on the Family First website that complains of 'over-scrutinisation' of candidates I had to laugh. Come on guys, we aren't in a church meeting now! If you presume yourself worthy enough to offer yourself as a person who will represent me and my family in our government, then you can be sure that I will demand your close scrutinisation. The media is not always a positive thing but when it comes to looking at those who wish to represent us, it is not the right of the media to scrutinise, but their wholehearted responsibility.
I think if you don't want things found under the microscope then simply clean up your act. The claim that the FF party isnt linked to the AOG is ridiculous. Joans Woods comment on the party not being 'linked on paper' is a disturbing display of how political concepts and ambition can over ride the truth. I think the cock has definately crowed three times. As an AOG church member I was completely unaware that we were pretending the FF party wasn't linked to us. oops!

Anonymous said...

While I was raised a Baptist, I now no longer consider myself a believer. In political terms I am now on the socialist side of things, and see myself as someone who tries to find out and represent the needs of working people, regardless of what the ALP or its leadership of the unions says that is.

What concerns me about Christians foraying into the political fray is the unstated bits, particularly those against the interests of working people, which seem to often fall down on the side of aiding conservative governments and their designs, say in regard to unions and industrial relations.

I had an experience in the early 1990's, I think at a time of the Greiner NSW Liberal government. I was working at an election booth in western Sydney for a socialist candidate. On the same booth was a Fred Nile supporter. In conversation with him and an ALP booth worker, the Fred Nile supporter, when questioned, revealed himself to be a hospital orderly. Myself and the ALP worker asked him whether he knew that Fred Nile had voted for Greiner's industrial relations legislation that severely limited the scope of activity of unions, meaning the rights of this guy to take action in his own interest as a worker. The guy was taken aback, completely unaware of this aspect to Fred Nile.

Having had a look at the Family First website, and having noted the bit about working with unions and business to achieve a better economic outcome (which as a socialist I could go on about, but suffice it to say that I think that it is highly idealistic, simplistic and naive view of a complex subject fraught with tension), I see nothing there about unions or industrial relations. And yet this is a crucial area of policy that, from my point of view, is all about working people, ie the people who make up the membership of AOG churches, ensuring they get a just cut of economic growth, and aren't just left to rot out in the outer regions of big cities like Sydney. That means giving unions their head.

I fear that Family First will be courted by conservative governments, like the one we've got, to be offered a bit of burley in terms of their agenda, for a deal of supporting a conservative agenda in things like industrial relations, to the detriment of the wider (and more immediate material) interests of their church members.

Though I note that reality did catch up with Fred Nile when his aboriginal church members demanded he support their interests in matters close to their heart, and Fred ended up voting to support them. So my warning to Family First would be politicians is: don't neglect the material interests of your parishioners, even though you may be fixed on the spiritual, or otherwise you will be exposed before them as yet another bunch of uncaring politicians. Despite what I have heard is a "prosperity doctrine" in the AOG church.

Anonymous said...

I feel very strongly that FF will utilise members of the AOG church to their own finincial gain, very simiarly to what has happened it the USA.

While i feel that there needs to be a conservitive party to balance the fairly left pocicies of the Greens, FF are going about it in the wrong way. Their handeling of the media makes even One Nation look credible in comparison. In the SA election they were very composed, however in the Federal election its all gone to their head. From their performance in this election their existance will be shorter than that of the Democrats, one maybe two elections at most.

CraigS said...

Hi Nathan,

I have to say I remain unconvinced that family first have done anything dishonest or immoral. They are upfront about the fact that many of their candidates are from AOG churches. They are upfront about the fact that they espouse christian values.

But they also state clearly that there is official connection between the AOG church and the FF political party. You haven't presented any evidence to contradict this position.

I think most of the criticism in the media and elsewhere is motivated by a collision of values rather than any genuine concern about the party structure.

Is it a surprise to people that many of Labors candidates come from the union movement? Is it a surprise that many of the Greens candidates are members of environmental groups?

Of course not! Now we have a party explicitly espousing Christian values. Is it really surprising that many of the candidates are affiliated with church?!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Sanity prevails...You prove my maxim that to get the true Christianity, u need NOT park your mind at the door.
Expect a lot of traffic I am directing your way!
Lotsa love, another sane Christian who will NOT be voting FF.

Anonymous said...

A previous poster claims that FF owns up to a link between itself and the AOG Church. Perhaps you didn't read baliset's post: he directly quotes the FF senate candidate for Qld saying that the mere suggestion of links between AOG and FF amounts to "slander". Other reps in other states (see Joan Woods quote as well, NSW candidate) also vehemently deny any links. So, dude, your argument falls fairly flat there.

CraigS said...

My post should have read "NO official connection". Apologies for the confusion...I need to proof-read a bit more...

Anonymous said...

I was at church (not AOG) in the 1990's. The pastor had done this great sermon on the need for christians to be represented in Government, that a political party was needed that reflected christian principles. The more christians we had in power the less satan would be able to work in our country. They talked about an up and coming political party though can't remember if it was indeed family first.(it went on and on can't remember all the details)

I wanted a video of the service, but had to wait while they edited out the political stuff out before it came to bite them in the bottom.

I guess what I am saying, is, Christians know if they want to get their way here in Australia, they need people in Government (whom they have alread with the Lyons Forum, in government)

As for me, Someone who has struggled with my sexuality for years, finally decided Jesus loves me for who I am. I read the bible, don't attend church and live finally a pain free life with my lesbian partner. With no guilt I may add, as God created me as who I am.

Even though Christians do not support same sex love at present, I hope they see that we are people too, not unlike divorcee's who know gain acceptence in the christian church. It is very difficult being a lesbian who is also a christian. I feel the Coalition is just as dishonest as FF in regards to the individuals belief systems and other agenda's.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Zamprogno said...

The last two comments have been removed

Offensive comments will not be tolerated. Please remember these are people whom I know and love. Deal with it. Ultimately, it's the methods of the party rather than the policies I disagree with.

Emma Whale said...

Nathan,

I never thought there'd come a day when I would agree with you on something political! But there you go, here it is. Thank you for your words. For those of you who don't know, I go to the same church as Nathan and have been very concerned by the whole Family First debacle. I find it dishonest and divisive. Whether I disagree or agree with their policies doesn't matter to me at all - what I dislike is the politicising of the pulpit in the church I go to, and the way it has been done in an underhand manner. I don't think you could find two more different people than Nathan and myself, with more opposing views. And yet we both love God and find unity in that. The connection between AOG and FF has taken away that unity in Christ and replaced it with unity based on shared opinions and political goals. There must be a space within the church to disagree with FF, and right now, it isn't very big.

Thanks, Emma Whale

gazza said...

Yes ,
I have asked the Family First Folks the same questions.

Now folks to qualify . I am a Bible beleiving AOG fundamentalist. So yes I am totally aligned with the Pentacostal Teaching .

I asked them why they do not announce themselves as being a Christian Party . My question is "what are you scared of " .

I got the following reply

Families encompass mums and dads, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa and our children. The Family First Party is not a Christian Party, but a family values party. The family values and positive and practical policies of Family First Party would attract the support of Christians and we welcome their support, however the party is not a Christian Party.

The party is not a church party or an Assembly of God party, nor is it funded by AOG churches. It does see itself as SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE, with Family Values based on Christian ethics. Like any main-stream party we do not have on record the religious affiliations of any of our members. The Board of Reference in South Australia includes business-people, members of the medical profession, as well as ministers and people from Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Uniting and other church groups. The rapid national growth of the party leading into this election and the late decision to contest in all seats possible, has meant that in some states there are candidates, with strong family values, who have been introduced to the party through the personal relationships they have from their involvement in community/church networks

Given that the values of the Family First party align with Christian values, it's not surprising that many Christians support the Family First party.
Further, support for Candidates comes from family and friends. Therefore it also isn't surprising that Family First is being promoted in some churches.

Hope this answers your questions

In my Church . It came up a lot . Including the Leadership meetings, the creative arts music team meeting and the fact there was one member wearing his family first t-Shirt every week.....(not that I have a problem with it )

I beleive that when the Church denies what it really is about it is denying Jesus Christ.
And I really beleive that they should come out and saying what they are.
We are the "Australian pentacostal party "

Now that would be more like it .

Any at work I don't say that I'm a "Family Values " man just to get peoples interest . I tell them that I am a Christian .

A lot of folk say that you a "right wing fundamentalist crackpot" but in reality society has been slipping downward.
After all people respect the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist (even though it doesn't exist) and other Bible believing denominations . But they are suprised when I say that all of those denominations started out
exactly like the AOG folks . Spirit Filled , evangelical. eg Look at the original Methodists and then look at them now...not the same.

After all if I said "I am a Muslim " everyone would be on my side .

But if you say "I'm a Christian " you are in direct opposition to everything...

Well the Bible does say that you will get opposition and I think the Family First Guys are really scared of opposition ...

The Bible says to "Speak the Truth in love " and I'm afraid that this really is "Speak a half-truth to make pallatable" .

I don't agree with it because I beleive that Family First by not stating the position is a lie !!!!!!!

Period ...

Thanks Folks and God Bless

Anonymous said...

Don't let anyone tell you that this is the last word on Family First. If FF actually succeed in obtaining the balance of power in the Senate, then scrutiny of the affiliations of the party should just be beginning.

Firstly, note how their policy of "no full sale of Telstra" has already changed to "we'll have to look at that" within 48 hours of the election. Who will determine what FF will support or oppose? Probably the pentacostal pastor's social club, who are sitting down together now and can't believe their luck. No local FF branch where you can go along and put your case. No input from the people of Victoria. No dissent permitted, otherwise you're opposing "God's will".

As depressing as things are here in Victoria, Nathan, here's some comfort for you in NSW. The vote counting to date show some interesting trends. Family First did as well in their lower house seats as for the senate candidates in each state, EXCEPT NSW. Thus, in Victoria, if their lower house candidates got (on average) 2%, then their Senate man got 2%. In QLD, 3% in the lower house seats, 3% in the upper house. In S.A, 4% and 4%. This uniformity in support between lower and upper house is a reflection of the general support for FF. But look what happened in NSW! Even those "joke" reps candidates that your Church stood miles from where they lived still got between 1.5% and 2.5% of the vote. Did Joan Woods do as well? No. She got an awful 0.54% of the vote, placing her neatly between the "Help End Marijuana Prohibition Party" and the "Lower Excise Fuel and Beer Party". Why did she get only a quarter as much support as her cardboard cutout lower house counterparts, bucking the uniform trend across all other states? Maybe it was her husband spruiking on her behalf, writing letters and asking other people to put their names to them (revealed on the 7.30 report). Maybe it was being ambushed on The Chaser Decides receiving a Mal Award "for the greatest act of political suicide during an election campaign".

Look, I'm not a conservative, so maybe you shouldn't expect sympathy from me, but I am also a Christian with a strong sense of what should and shouldn't get tangled up in Church life. If your Pastors want to poison the view of left-leaning seekers or parishioners and, ultimately, turn them off Christianity (or at least your brand of it), then they have traded the witness of Christ for short term political gain, and shame on them for it.

Emma Whale said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

In my opinion, Family First is a non-religous party, with values and principles that promote protecting and preserving the family unit. Funnily enough, Christian principles and values also center around the traditional family unit.

What is wrong with that?

Our society (along with most other free and successful nations) were build on these basic ideals, so what is so offensive about a party that adopts them as their key principles?

I attend an AOG church which has repeatedly stated that it has no political allignment, and I know that is the same in 95% of AOG churches (I'm sure there is 5% out there doing the wrong thing). Churchgoers have prayed for an election result that would be the best for the country- not for any specific party. It is a personal choice as to who you vote for- and there has been no direction given to churchgoers by AOG churches or their leadership!

We all love a conspiracy theory, and it is much more fun to imagine that something exists when it doesn't. I think most people posting to this site are making a big deal out of nothing, and letting their assumptions run wild. I'm sure that Family First isn't perfect and that their representatives have misspoken on numerous occasions, but let's not build it up into some kind of new world order!

Besides, everyone is coming from a particular world-view on this issue, and most people have very strong oppinions regarding religion and politics. No wonder there are a lot of angry people out there!

I say "don't panic", and don't make too many assumptions. Everyone has a desire to create a conspiracy theory (including the media) just to keep life interesting.

-C

Anonymous said...

Anyone who wanted to see Family First's connection with the AOG should have been at Paradise Community Church over the last month.

While I didn't attend any Sunday services in that period, at the young adults meeting everyone was strongly encouraged (read 10 minute political speech/guilt trip) to vote for Family First and the group was chastised when not enough people volunteered to man polling booths on the day.

Bear in mind there were roughly 500 people there, and I'm sure that this behaviour was only symptomatic of what went on in Sunday services, where attendance reaches the 1000's.

And if this wasn't enough, in our small group the day before the election there was once again another political campaigning speech and guilt-trip request to man polling booths.

I have friends at Paradise who were heavily pressured by leaders higher up to be involved in helping the campaign and I totally understand what you mean when you say that people who have a divergent point of view are likely to be tainted as 'difficult' or 'not submissive to the vision'.

I would like to see a satanist or a muslim publicly approach Family First about running for office...then we might finally get to see how 'secular' they really are (man that would have been such a good stunt for The Chaser decides or someone like John Safran!!!).

Nathan Zamprogno said...

A previous post by Emma Whale, who is a member of Hawkesbury Church, and about Family First has been removed at her request.

This author does not invite others to draw any conclusions as to why she has done this.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who wanted to see Family First's connection with the AOG should have been at Paradise Community Church over the last month.

While I didn't attend many Sunday services in that period, at the young adults meeting everyone was strongly encouraged (read 10 minute political speech/guilt trip) to vote for Family First and the group was chastised when not enough people volunteered to man polling booths on the day.

Bear in mind there were roughly 500 people there, and I'm sure that this behaviour was only symptomatic of what went on in Sunday services, where attendance reaches the 1000's.

And if this wasn't enough, in our small group the day before the election there was once again another political campaigning speech and guilt-trip request to man polling booths.

I have friends at Paradise who were heavily pressured by leaders higher up to be involved in helping the campaign and I totally understand what you mean when you say that people who have a divergent point of view are likely to be tainted as 'difficult' or 'not submissive to the vision'.

I would like to see a satanist or a muslim publicly approach Family First about running for office...then we might finally get to see how 'secular' they really are (man that would have been such a good stunt for The Chaser decides or someone like John Safran!!!).

Anonymous said...

The politicisation of the pulpit is a dangerous and foolish thing to risk just so "family values" candidates can be installed in parliament with less than 2% of the vote. The implication that "secular" party politicians (who are often men and women of faith themselves) are barren in this area is insulting- just look at the Lyons forum in the Liberal party. All it has managed to achieve is to convince a huge number of people that there are now a broad new categories that qualify you for "unteachable" status in the Church. Previously, if you were openly gay or supported abortion, chances were you wouldn't feel welcome in an AOG Church. Now, if you vote Labor, or think that the separation of Church and State is a fairly important principle, or choose to handout leaflets for a different party on election days rather than support your church's FF candidate (which may well be your pastor), then, sorry, but you're "not in partnership" anymore, and you're on the outer.

Those with a genuine interest in getting more of the "Christian message" out there to counter the loopiness of the Greens should consider this: Any political party that gets more than a certain percentage of the vote in an election (which I'm not sure of, but it's not huge and doesn't depend on whether you actually get someone elected) is entitled to funding from the taxpayer to support the activities of that party. Family First has neatly sliced crucial support from the other Christian party, the Christian Democrats. In the end it doesn't matter at all if they exchange preferences- they are still diluting each others primary votes. Instead of the CDP being there with a fighting chance of getting that percentage and having some resource to push (what are ultimately, identical) causes, Family First and their arrogance have assured that neither will get a red cent. Bravo. It couldn't have been better engineered by the Greens if they tried.

Anonymous said...

Thnaks for that.
Although I'm not 'part' of the AOG, I'm part of an organisation which is funded by the AOG and mainly made up of AOGers. I was pretty intimidated by the support given to FF by leaders of this organisation, and was worried about revealing my own political views because of this.

Nathan Zamprogno said...

I'm gratified by the sentiments of the author of this blog, who has written a piece about this article:

http://dogfightatbankstown.typepad.com/blog/2004/10/between_a_rock_.html

The Postman said...

I am a year eight student and I am finding this topic to be quite interesting. I don't really know enough to have an opinion so instead I have some questions.

I can understand why AOG church members did not like the way FF portrayed itself in the media, but is there also an issue with some of their policies? Like their defintion of a family, or their support for the war in Iraq?

I went to a Catholic primary school and I don't think these policies are very Christlike. Does the AOG church preach both testiments? My mum says they only preech the old testiment- is that true?

Are there many AOG members that are upset with FF?

Does everybody here think the Greens are extreme? To me they don't seem to be.

Anonymous said...

It seems quite strange to me that anyone would listen to a man who has a personal political vendetta against Joan Woods (No matter how much he continues to "claim" that he loves her) and who also was once a member of the "One Nation" political party (In my opinion a party with much more questionable policies and methods than FF). I'm sorry didn't you all know that about Nathan. Seems a little hypocritical to me to say that he has written this blog without personal motives behind it when in actual fact he is still bitter about past events in local council elections (when mind you he demonstrated a complete lack of integrity in some of his actions). But didn't you know that about Nathan either. Hmmmm. Well thought out ONE SIDED commentary on FF Nathan. Please attend to the log in your eye. I just wonder if you'll allow this comment to remain? We'll see I guess.

Paula said...

This is a really interesting discussion! Personally, I voted Family First. I've always believed that voting is a personal conviction - you listen to all sides of the argument, and then make up your own mind on the situation. I was living in South Australia when Family First was launched. There was a major "grass-roots" campaign initiatied, principally through AOG churches. I know that there is no "official" afiliation with the party and the AOG, but I think it was a case of friends supporting friends. Ps Andrew Evans and Paul Newsham, who initially started the party in SA, were of course, from Paradise AOG. If you know the candidates personally, and their policies are all "family based", then why wouldn't a church pastor support them?
I can understand where people are coming from when they say that a pastor shouldn't promote political parties from the pulpit, but my pastor promoted family first, and there wasn't one complaint from our 3500 strong congregation (and I know, because all the complaints would have come to me). When my pastor mentioned family first, he didn't push it at all. Basically, he alerted the congregation to it's existance, told us that he would personally be supporting them, but essentially he encouraged us to check out their policies and make up our own mind. Isn't that what the church is for - guidance, coupled with freedom of choice?
just my 2c worth :)
Paula

Paula said...

Hi Annie...
I noticed that you hadn't received a reply to your post, so I'll give it a try :)
You mentioned that the FF policies aren't very christlike - which ones were you referring to?
The AOG preaches the whole bible - old and new testaments. In 2 Timothy 3:16 it says that "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right." So as a church, we believe that ALL scripture is from God, and because of that, we teach the whole bible. There does tend to be more teaching from the New Testament, but that's probably because we're a pentecostal church, based on the new testament. Does this make sense? I think i'm starting to confuse myself :)
Regarding you question about the greens being extreme, they're pretty much in opposition to whatever Family First stands for. Many people just think that they're about conservation, but they are also in favour of legalising illicit drugs, formalisation of homosexual relationships (ie same-sex marriage), and many other things, that are in direct contradiction with biblical values.
When it comes to elections, it's very easy just to vote for what you know, without checking policies and investigating further - but it's always a good thing to check out the parties, and vote on your own convictions, not on what other people are telling you to do.

Nathan Zamprogno said...

I'm perfectly happy to leave my accuser's comment in place, although saddened that you feel the need to launch a personal attack. Obviously you're someone I know. In all probability you're someone I sincerely regard as a friend.

The difference between us is that I'm prepared to put my name to what I write, and stand by what I say, whereas you feel the need to accuse me of a lack of integrity from the hypocrite's refuge of anonymity.

The very fact that you feel the need to respond in this way in defence of Family First (or Joan Woods, or any of the other protagonists mentioned) is confirmation of my central point- that legitimate criticism is forbidden when religion and politics become entwined. It becomes a matter of "spiritual headship", and the open debate that is essential to the political process is immediately shut down by an appeal to an authority that dare not be questioned. It's no way to run a government.

Does what you've said negate any of the points I (or the other comment posters) have made? No. I can live with your criticism, and might point out that several previous posts that someone made which reflected personally on the Woods family I removed summarily from the blog, aghast. It's not my point (and, despite your belief, not my heart).

Because you know me, you'll also know that I've never, ever retreated from or attempted to disguise any of my past associations, whether it's One Nation, the Liberal Party, the Red Cross, the Rural Fire Service, the Christian School at which I work, or indeed the 5 years I was on the Staff of Hawkesbury Church (2 of which were voluntary with no pay). Since you raise the subject of my previous campaigns for our readers; yes, I've run for Council twice. If my actions in either campaign displayed a lack of integrity, as you charge, then please don't stop where you have. Let's have it!

Friend, if I was ever bitter about anything that's happened in the past, then I wouldn't still be here after 16 years. This fact stands for itself. Reflect on my personal motives or integrity if you feel our readers deserve the information, but finish your sentences and put your name to them. You might also choose to explain why so many others are raising the same concerns. Are they bitter too? Will you reflect on their personal defects?

Hawkesbury Church is a wonderful place with good men and women at the helm. In this case, they've made a bad call, and owe an explanation. I grew up among them, and, I suspect, with you. If what I've written can't be received except defensively and by proxy, then you've made my point better than I ever could have, and for all to see. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to read the very personal attack on Nathan's character. I agree, Nathan, this sounds like someone who does know you. He or she obviously holds some resentment and unforgiveness toward you in so carefully listing your political history. Logs in eyes all round I think.
Nathan has his faults as do we all, but I think his honesty is something to be commended. Take the time to get to know him, instead of judging him on how different he is from you, based on your own prejudices.

I read that the Family First Party had to disendorse all its candidates just before the election as there were so many radicals (ie 'the burn all lesbians' incident) creating sensational news stories. Are we really so insecure that we can't allow others to have a difference of opinion without judging them as heretical and making personal attacks?

I think Steve Kelly summed this discussion up in his sermon on Sunday when he said "There is unity in diversity".

Anonymous said...

I am saddened to read the very personal attack on Nathan's character. I agree, Nathan, this sounds like someone who does know you. He or she obviously holds some resentment and unforgiveness toward you in so carefully listing your political history. Logs in eyes all round I think.
Nathan has his faults as do we all, but I think his honesty is something to be commended. Take the time to get to know him, instead of judging him on how different he is from you, based on your own prejudices.

I read that the Family First Party had to disendorse all its candidates just before the election as there were so many radicals (ie 'the burn all lesbians' incident) creating sensational news stories. Are we really so insecure that we can't allow others to have a difference of opinion without judging them as heretical and making personal attacks?

I think Steve Kelly summed this discussion up in his sermon on Sunday when he said "There is unity in diversity".

Anonymous said...

I disagree. You cannot hold all of Family First to the comments of every supporter. I think it is pointless debating how "godly" they are or are not. Their behvaiour during the campaign is ethically no better or worse than any other political party... though quite a bit smarter than some. But the more important point is surely their policies... of which your post includes few comments.

I am an agnostic libertarian and so am not the sort who would be attracted to Family First. But I find the anti-FF sentiment to be somewhat ill founded. They are not as bad as they have been made out to be.

John Humphreys www.libertarian.org.au

Anonymous said...

its sad to see that when there is so much to be done in our world and so many people to help that some sit around on computers whinging and complaining about a political party who is trying to help and do some good in our nation. maybe instead of complaining you might want to get up and look outside for a minute and help someone in need. once youve done that and dedicate your time to helping then you might have a right to say something. its funny that a party thats trying to do some good get slammed from every side. people, get a life.

Anonymous said...

Some interesting posts. Many of them misguided. History will show that the majority of the slander written about Family First is ignorant and unfounded.

Anonymous said...

Who is to say it is not you who are the ignorant one? Perhaps it is your own ignorance that misguides you?

And for those of you yourselves whining about others "whining" aren't you also just as bad. Perhaps you need to read more carefully so that the point of this blog could be more clear to you? This blog is not about 'slamming' the essense of what Family First stands for, it's about accountability.

No one here is against good being done in our nation. There is however more open and honest ways of going about!

zzymurgy said...

Feedback, feedback, feedback. You love it Nathan, so here's some more.

Interesting to note that the majority of comments on this page (at least, the ones that aren't anonymous) are positive towards what you said, suspicious of Family Last and well-thought-out.

However, most of the posts have a flavour of "I don't disagree with their policies but I don't like their lack of transparency."

Let me take a different tack.
I should point out that I'm a Christian and a member of The Greens, and I was hurt during the Federal Election by unfounded, slanderous and illegal attacks on the Greens by FF. I have many Christian friends who are also Greens members, most notably Kris Hanna MP and Michael Organ former MP.

Do you honestly believe that any political party doesn't have 'family values' at its core? Do you think that any political party has been set up not to 'help people'? Of course not. Political parties are set up because a group of like-minded people see a space in the political spectrum that needs filling, often with much encouragement from their families.

I don't want to drag on, but let me make two more points about this.

Firstly, The Greens never wanted to give drugs to kids. They never wanted kids to have access to drugs at all. We proposed that minor drug offences such as possesion be treated medically rather than criminally. That's it. No free drugs, and importantly, no breakup of families due to kids serving jailtime. Rehabilitate them and get them back home, that's the essence of that policy. Or to put it more succinctly, family first.

Secondly, the unholy alliance between FF and the Liberals. Can this ever work? Let's look at a sample of Liberal legislation:

1. Industrial relations reform.

Less full-time jobs, more casual jobs. Easier to lose your job and harder to get holidays and sick leave. Job insecurity = more stress on the family, financially and emotionally. No holidays = no time with family.

2. The sale of Telstra.

Private interests dictate lower rural service levels. Harder and more expensive to keep in touch with family, particularly if they're rural. Possible threat to lives in medical or natural disaster emergencies.

3. Private schools get more funding than public schools.

There's no point sending kids to a public school, they're so underfunded. Parents have to work longer and harder to keep them in private schools. Less time with family.

4. Burning lesbians at the stake.

Um, lesbians have families too!

5. Peter Costello's recent example, purchasing more air warfare destroyers.

Clearly, air warfare destroyers (whatever they are) can only hurt people. They hurt the people being shot at, and they hurt the taxpayers who are paying for them. There's no way any military expansion is 'family friendly'.

I urge you, dear reader, to consider this "Christian Values" thing that everyone's talking about now. They're what Jesus stood for. Helping the poor, healing the sick, and taking in the destitute and diseased. Where in FF's policies do they talk about that?

gewerq said...

I agree with the essay that the methods are not ethical and Christians should not deny Jesus, but overall the impact of Family First has been positive

Anonymous said...

Imagine how much more that would be had they only been upfront in the beginning.

Emma Whale said...

Emma Whale Says:
October 13th, 2004 at 10:09 am

Thought this may be of interest: A letter of complaint I wrote to NSW FF state office.

I am writing as a member of the AOG church to express my disappointment over Family First.

I am a committed member and leader in Hawkesbury Church Windsor (Ps Joan Woods’ church) and until this election, have been proud of my denomination and my church. However, in the attempt of Family First to jump into Federal politics I have become ashamed to say I am a Pentacostal Christian.

There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, I feel as though Family First has been less than honest with the Australian people, or extremely naive (I hope it’s the latter). Repeatedly, Family First has denied they are a church party and that there are strong links between the party and the church. As a member of an AOG church I know for a fact this is simply not true. Eight members of my church are running for seats in the lower and upper houses. Practically everyone else who is standing for a seat is AOG or at least a Christian. If Family First is serious about proving they are not an AOG party then perhaps they should find some candidates elsewhere. For several weeks the fact our senior pastor is running for the Senate has been mentioned from the pulpit as well as exhortations to help her in her campaign. Private email addresses and phone numbers given to the church for church use have been used to call people asking for their help in the election campaign and also used to distribute political material to church members. I believe this is actually illegal, as well as crossing the very fine line between church and state. I also know the AOG sees Family First as its “platform to influence the nation”. Yet, when any of these issues and inconsistencies have been broadcasted in the media, the party has claimed the media is hounding them. This may be true. But if the issues were not there in the first place then there would be no publicity of them. As a journalist, I thoroughly believe the media has an important role in this area as people deserve to know the truth.

Secondly, it has been extremely divisive. I saw Peter Harris interviewed in regard to comments made by senate candidate Danny Naillah about Islam and those made by a Queensland volunteer about burning lesbiams at the stake. He could not deny the comments, but tried to pass off Mr Naillah’s as “personal opinion” and said he would not disendorse the candidate. I could not believe such divisive, racist comments could be made by people claiming to be Christians. The fact the party did not take a stand on this issue simply divided me further from it, and as a consequence, my church, which saddens me. Also, the fact the party has almost unanimously given preferences to the Liberal Party is, for me, untenable. Now any Christian who usually votes Labor (and there are plenty of them) cannot vote Family First. And again, those of us who are not necessarily conservative feel alienated from the party and the church.

I actually agree with several of the policies of Family First. I also disagree with some of them. What I, and a lot of other people in the church, are upset about is an attempt to politicise the pulpit and then deny that it’s happening. I also dislike the fact the party claims its policies are “Christian based”. If you claim a certain stance is the “Christian” stance, then anyone who doesn’t agree is alienated not only from the political opinion, but Christianity. Many of the stances that are claimed to be “Christian” I don’t agree with, and yet I am absolutely a committed Bible-believing Christian.

I hope you have taken the time to read this email. I can only hope after the election we can all get back to what Jesus asked us to do - love God, love people and get them saved. I also hope I can keep on in the AOG church when I am, quite frankly, quite disillusioned.

Thanks for your time,

Emma Whale

Anonymous said...

Oooh, Nathan, Nathan. You're so close to the mark. Connect the dots. Here's a clue- look at that list of FF candidates that stood at the election. Some of them, er, might have been a little closer to each other than you or anyone would have thought, and probably while this was all going on.

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