Preacher 'prepares' Costello

( News.com.au ) - THE leader of a Christian group that advocates the destruction of mosques, casinos and bottle shops has met Peter Costello to "prophetically prepare" the Treasurer for the prime ministership .

Mr Costello and John Howard held private meetings with Catch the Fire leader Danny Nalliah in August, the same month the Prime Minister met with the leaders of the Exclusive Brethren, which prohibits voting and modern technology.

Mr Nalliah said in a letter to Christians that the Lord had told him to spend "personal time" with Mr Howard and to prepare Mr Costello as the "future prime minister".

He had a "one-to-one meeting with Peter Costello on Thursday, August 9 and John Howard on Friday, August 10".

A spokesman for Kevin Rudd said he was concerned about the "closeness of the Exclusive Brethren and Catch the Fire groups to Howard government ministers".

Mr Howard would not comment and Mr Nalliah did not return calls.

A spokesman for Mr Costello confirmed he had met Mr Nalliah many times.

"The Treasurer has met with Danny Nalliah on a number of occasions and has publicly supported his successful appeal against prosecution under Victoria's religious vilification laws."

In a second letter justifying his support for the Coalition to fellow Christians, Mr Nalliah said he was well justified in attacking Labor because they supported homosexuality and abortion.

"I have attached a letter from Mr Rudd to one of his constituencies, where he declares Labor's full support for homosexuality, including the amending of current laws if elected, to support homosexuals," he says.

The Catch The Fire ministries sparked a row with the Islamic Council of Victoria in 2002 when it claimed in a newsletter that Muslims were demons training to make Australia an Islamic state, that the Koran promoted violence and that Muslims derived money from drug dealing.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Mr Nalliah and colleague Daniel Scot had vilified Islam under the state's 2002 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

However, the Victorian Court of Appeal quashed the order, ruling the VCAT had not used the proper legal test for incitement and so sent it back for a review, where the dispute was mediated.

Mr Costello wrote a letter of support to Mr Nalliah during his legal battle.

The Howard Government has been under fire for meeting with extreme right-wing groups after it was revealed the Prime Minister met Bruce Hales, the elect vessel or leader of the Exclusive Brethren, and other leading members of the reclusive sect in August.

Australian Federal Police are investigating expenditure before the 2004 election of $370,000 on pro-Liberal and anti-Greens advertising by Willmac Enterprises, a company linked to the Brethren.

Sect members are prohibited from voting, attending university and having televisions, radios, computers or mobile phones. Contact with family members who leave the church is also banned.

The Opposition Leader has labelled the Brethren an extremist cult and called on Mr Howard to reveal what was discussed in his meeting with its senior members.

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