How independent are the Group of Seven?

An official spokesperson for the Exclusive Brethren has said that the Group of Seven are acting independently of the church, and are acting in their role as concerned businessmen.

I basically reject that premise for two reasons, but there is a factor I will come back to which may make it literally true.

First of all, involvement by the Brethren in election campaigns has occurred in half a dozen countries in very recent times. This strongly implies that the senior leadership of the church has been encouraging, if not mandating, this activity. I do not believe in coincidences.

Secondly the involvement in NZ was not just the pamphlets put out by the Group of Seven, but also many hundreds or thousands of volunteers who helped with pamphlet deliveries etc. Again this very strongly suggests that the senior leadership of the church encouraged or mandated such activity.

But there is one factor at play, which may make any third party restrictions meaningless. I suspect the pamphlets were in fact not funded by the Exclusive Brethren church, but by the individuals named on them. Many of their members are successful and prosperous business owners and their individual resources are in this case probably significantly more than any collective funds with the church. So when they say the pamphlet was published by say P Lim rather than the EB, they may technically be right because P Lim could well have paid for it personally.

Now even if the proposed limit of $60,000 remains in force, so long as the seven are paying individually they can still legally do $420,000 of advertising (and many would say they should be allowed to anyway so long as they have full disclosure). If seven other EB members join in then they can do $840,000. The law may have no effect on the very people Labour claims it is targeted at.

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