Article Featured in The Age Newspaper, 1st November 2007 “Howard Keeps Link to Controversial Pastor”6 Comments Published November 1st, 2007 in Australia, Politics
November 1, 2007
PRIME Minister John Howard has condemned the League of Rights as “a bit anti-Semitic”, but refused to cut ties with an evangelical pastor who has accepted a platform from the far right-wing group.
Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd also sidestepped the issue of government access for the pastor, warning only that people should be “very, very wary” of dealings with the “grossly anti-Semitic organisation”.
Danny Nalliah, head of Melbourne-based Catch the Fire Ministries, last night reaffirmed he would address the league again, despite criticism from Jewish leaders that his actions had conferred legitimacy on the group.
“I would not change my view. I stand by it,” Pastor Nalliah told The Age. “I am a Christian minister â€” my task is to go after the sinner, not cast away the sinner. There is no one beyond redemption.”
The Australian League of Rights, founded by Eric Butler in 1960, insists the Holocaust â€” in which millions of Jewish people were murdered by the Nazi regime â€” did not happen.
In light of Pastor Nalliah’s reaffirmation last night, at least one Jewish leader urged political leaders to distance themselves from him.
Grahame Leonard, president of the executive council of Australian Jewry, said the pastor’s stated intentions were “at best, naive” given the league’s bigoted views.
“We would urge all our politicians to publicly distance themselves from the pastor and his views,” he said.
Other Jewish groups also slammed the pastor’s views as misguided â€” but refused to criticise political leaders during an election campaign.
Pastor Nalliah spoke to a league meeting in Albury in October 2005, as he was being prosecuted under religious vilification laws over comments about Muslims. The case was eventually settled at mediation.
The evangelical church leader has been granted high-level access to government. He told followers he had held one-on-one meetings with Treasurer Peter Costello on August 9 and Prime Minister Mr Howard the next day, after God told him to “prophetically prepare” Mr Costello as the future prime minister.
The Treasurer has defended Pastor Nalliah in the past. On Tuesday his office issued a statement condemning the league, but refused to say if he would continue to meet the pastor. His office did not return calls on the issue yesterday.
Mr Howard condemned the League of Rights as anti-Semitic, but did not criticise Pastor Nalliah for addressing the group. He did not say if he would cut ties with Catch the Fire, nor did he rule out meeting Pastor Nalliah again.
“I abhor the League of Rights. One of the central planks of the League of Rights is that they’ve been a bit anti-Semitic. Well, everybody knows I have a very strong position on that,” Mr Howard said.
Last night, Catch the Fire issued a statement saying it would “not knowingly support or endorse any organisation which promotes such hatred (of others for their religious beliefs)”.
With BEN DOHERTY, BRENDAN NICHOLSON, LARISSA DUBECKI and PETER KER