Religious sect admit to leaflet drops

TV One News, New Zealand/September 7, 2005

The group behind a leaflet drop discrediting Labour and the Greens has revealed itself at a news conference in South Auckland.

The seven businessmen are members of the fundamentalist Exclusive Brethren Church, but say they are only acting in their capacity as concerned New Zealanders.

"We're fundamentalist Christians, we seek to live our lifes by the Bible," Neville Simmons said.

The leaders of a sect don't vote but they are accused of waging a smear campaign against Labour and the Greens.

"The campaign we've put out is not a smear campaign, it is not designed as a smear campaign, it's designed to inform the people of New Zealand the real situation in this country," Simmons said.

Up to 50 Exclusive Brethren have donated as much as $1 million towards the campaign, however, the sect says they are acting as individuals.

"We follow and we are influenced by our Christian beliefs, but it is not an Exclusive Brethren initiative," Simmons said.

In May TVNZ's Sunday programme filmed National's finance spokesman John Key meeting Exclusive Brethren. The church says it has met will all politicians from all parties except the Prime Minister.

This isn't the church's first foray into politics. Newspaper adverts that appeared in papers in April, labelled "a wake up call", were authorised by the group.

There's nothing illegal about the Exclusive Brethren funding the anti-Green and Labour pamphlets, but the Chief Electoral Office is investigating claims that some of the addresses on the pamphlets are false, which is a breach of the Electorate Act.

The leaflet drops are not over with more expected over the next 10 days.

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