Over the last few years, I have written several essays about the takeover of the Liberal Party by religious nutters. The first time this came to my attention was in regard to the Liberal Party in Victoria1. That apparent takeover and the bizarre statement that, if elected to government, the Liberal Party would reintroduce religious instruction in public schools, led to their decline in support such that at the most recent Victorian state election the number of seats they held actually decreased (by about 9), giving the Labor state government an increased majority2.
The second instance was in Western Australia where several local branches of the Liberal Party have been completely taken over by members of Pentecostal churches3. According to friends and former colleagues in Perth, this was one of the reasons the Liberal Party was all but annihilated in the most recent Western Australian state election, being left with only two seats in the 59 seat lower house4. One of the other reasons for the Liberal demise was suspected to be because the Coalition federal government, under Pentecostal Scott Morrison, initially joined Clive Palmer’s legal challenge to Western Australia’s Covid-19 border shutdown5.
Queensland’s amalgamated Liberal National Party (LNP) has slowly and steadily been taken over by the Christian right. This was demonstrated by MPs being given a ‘conscience vote’ on the legalisation of abortion, and when three MPs availed themselves of this opportunity to vote for legalisation, they were condemned by the then party president. The subsequent Queensland state election in late 2020 returned the Labor Party with an increased majority6.
In New South Wales, the religious NSW Reformers group is recruiting christian conservatives to the NSW Liberal Party with a view to controlling the state division. The group has put together a 900 word document entitled Taking Back Our Nation Through Good Government. The metadata for this document suggests it was written by a staff member in a federal ministerial office in 20187. This lurch to the religious right seems to be continuing as the NSW state seat of Willoughby, once held by leading moderate, former premier Gladys Berejiklian was won by Tim James, an acolyte of the ludicrously incompetent former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and a member of the hard religious right of the Liberal Party8,9.
Now there has been another skirmish in the takeover of the Victorian Liberal Party by the religious which demonstrates the newer tactics in use by the religious. This takeover began with stacking of branches by Mormons and other fundamentalists1, but now seems to include more stacking by those of the pentecostal persuasion.
The Upper House Liberal Member for Eastern Victoria, Cathrine Burnett-Wake was widely expected to be pre-selected to contest the November state election. However, despite being personally endorsed by federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, she was booted from the ticket when Sale’s City Builders Church member Renee Heath won pre-selection10. Like most Liberals, Burnett-Wake is only now alive to the threat posed to the Liberal Party by religious nutters, because it has affected her personally. In her valedictory speech in parliament, she stated that extremism was a danger to democracy and that “we must be vigilant, and we must ensure that our democracy is upheld”. She added: “It is their determination to subvert democracy and the law that makes them unacceptably extreme, … They cannot win mainstream support legitimately and rely on misinformation and cult-like practices to build a following”10. What she means is that these religious nutters will lie to get their way and insinuate themselves into positions of power. They lie mostly by omission. While this is not new, it is becoming more widespread among them.
Pentecostal pastor Brian Heath of the City Builders Church joined the Victorian Liberal Party in August 2019. He then invited Malaysian pastor Jonathan David, the founder of an international apostolic network that encourages churches to “penetrate” and “conquer” the nation around them in preparation for the second coming. Believe it or not, David told Heath’s congregation: “The next three terms of election [sic] in this nation are very crucial because it’s going to chart the course for the end time”11.
Brian Heath is now the vice-president of the Liberal Party’s Morwell branch, and the newly pre-selected candidate for the upper house, Renee Heath, is his daughter. When questioned about her stance on the legalisation of abortion and same-sex marriage, which Heath’s church vehemently opposes, she declined to answer11. The only reason she would decline to answer was because she knows that her answer would likely make it clear she held the same views as her father, and those views are anathema to an increasingly progressive Australia.
I suspect the reason there is so much infiltration of the Liberal Party by religious nutters is because the latter know that the number of those professing to be christian is declining. It is an existential threat to their power and influence, and this takeover is the only way they know to try to protect that power and influence. They will fail because they will continue to form an even smaller and smaller minority than they do now12.
The fact that these people believe that the ‘end time’ is coming and is dearly to be wished for, because they, as ‘good’ Pentecostals will be raptured and sucked up to heaven, is disturbing. Firstly, it is disturbing that adult humans could actually believe this drivel, when the numerous predictions of the end time over the last two millennia have proven always to be wrong13.
Secondly, it is disturbing that people who wish for Armageddon want to be in positions of political power, so they can hasten the end time, presumably by buggering up the rollout of vaccines for the next pandemic, ignoring global heating, neglecting to help people made homeless by fire or flood, or by fomenting war with China (this all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Thirdly, it is disturbing that these people want to be in positions of political power so they can recriminalise homosexuality, recriminalise prostitution, repeal same-sex marriage, repeal voluntary assisted dying, and legislate their own bigotries.
There may be an added bonus that the takeover by the religious of the Liberal Party will have, and that will be the terminal decline of the Liberal Party, until they reach their own ‘end time’. For them there will be no rapture, just deregistration.