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'Exclusive Brethren' religious sect behind anti-gay ads in Canada

That name of this group sounds like something out of Austin PowersThe Exclusive Brethren. WTF is that? Our AmTaliban are not quite as creative (Christians Reviving America’s Values [CRAVE] tries a bit too hard).

A secretive religious sect is behind an aggressive but anonymous direct-mail and advertising campaign against gay marriage that has triggered complaints in Parliament and in the media from MPs and ordinary Canadians from B.C. to Atlantic Canada, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

Some members of the ultra-conservative Exclusive Brethren, who shun relationships with non-members and require their women to wear head scarves in public, organized and funded the campaign, a sect member confirmed Thursday. The campaign’s sponsors identify themselves in the provocative ads and mail-outs only as “concerned Canadian parents,” or CCP, with a post office box address located in a Toronto convenience store.

But an employee at the 7-Eleven store said Thursday CCP stopped paying for the box at least three months ago, so all incoming mail is being returned. The latest CCP initiative was a full-page ad this week in The Hill Times newspaper, a Parliament Hill weekly, telling senators studying Bill C-38 that gay marriage will never “rise to this standard [of being an] honourable relationship.”

The Brethren, according to the Vancouver Sun, are estimated to number between 50,000 and 200,000. They are evangelical Christians (but are not members of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada). Members live primarily in North America, England, Australia, and Argentina. This group even has publicly supported Chimpy (he really attracts that mainstream audience, doesn’t he?).

Members of the Brethren in the U.S. also broke the sect’s tradition of non-involvement in politics by spending more than $500,000 US last year to promote President George W. Bush, though the White House later condemned the group’s “shadowy” nature.

…The CCP name, based on legal advice, has been deliberately written in lower case because it has no official status and isn’t registered anywhere, Heggie said. CCP sent tens of thousands of flyers to Canadian households this spring declaring: “URGENT! A MESSAGE TO ALL (name of riding) FAMILIES,” and urging constituents to contact their local MP, who was identified along with the MP’s addresses and phone numbers.

Marriage, the pamphlet warns, is “about to be dumped into the garbage can of history.”

The Exclusive Brethren was formed in 1825 in Ireland, when a group left the Church of Ireland because they felt it mingled to much with the secular world. “They’ve always had a strong sense of separation from the world, which [they think] God has likely handed over to Satan,” Ian Markham, dean of the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, told the St. Petersburg Times in January.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding