In 2008, Scott Morrison used his first speech in parliament to tell us how he had been “greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders”, specifically mentioning “pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Coleman.”
Most people are aware of Brian Houston, leader of the Hillsong Church, after he was censured by the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse for his failure to report to authorities his father’s confessed serial sexual abuse of children, and for the grave conflict of interest in dealing with the sex claims himself.
This is the man that Scotty wanted to bring to dinner at the White House.
But you may not be aware of Leigh Coleman, another former Hillsong executive who, two years before Scotty’s confession of admiration, was investigated for allegedly ripping off government funded Indigenous charities, as reported by The Australian.
“The Government has admitted that Hillsong Emerge chief Leigh Coleman received $80,000 of federal indigenous development funds to top up his salary, despite having only indirect involvement in the projects.
It also paid Hillsong Emerge $82,500 to fit out its office in the Sydney suburb of Redfern. Mr Coleman uses the office to run the Christian Business Directory, which touts for advertising worth up to $2000 an item.
The new material shows Mr Coleman received $80,000 in annual salary for his part in administering two indigenous business development programs. Hillsong Emerge’s federal funding in both programs, by Indigenous Business Australia, was discontinued this year after revelations in federal parliament that only a tiny portion of the millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money reached the Aboriginal community.
The vast majority of the funds went to employing Hillsong Emerge staff, including $315,000 to cover the salaries of seven workers in Redfern.
In one year, the program made just six “micro-enterprise development” loans to Aborigines, which were worth an average of $2856 each.
The discontinuation of the IBA funding programs came only weeks after Hillsong Emerge was stripped of a separate $415,000 federal grant for community crime prevention.
Liberal MP Louis Markus, a Hillsong church member who once worked with Mr Coleman, won the seat of Greenway in Sydney’s northwest at the last election with the campaign support of Hillsong members. Labor MPs have alleged in federal parliament that the commonwealth grants to Hillsong Emerge were a reward for Hillsong’s political support.”
Five years later and Mr Coleman was in the news again with this article from news.com.au
“A CHRISTIAN charity which has so far spent more than $1.3 million to generate just $330,000 in loans for Indigenous Australians is being investigated.
Many Rivers Microfinance is run by a former Hillsong executive who has already come under parliamentary scrutiny over an earlier loans program that delivered only a trickle of funds to the Indigenous community.
In 2006 Leigh Coleman’s operation at Hillsong Emerge – the evangelical group’s former benevolent arm – had its funding discontinued after revelations the vast majority of taxpayer dollars went to employing staff.
Mr Coleman’s current program at Many Rivers has since successfully raised millions of dollars from the Federal Government and some of the country’s biggest companies including Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Westpac.
But since its inception in 2007 to the end of the 2010 financial year the latest available records show it has delivered just 74 microenterprise loans worth a total of $330,000.
While declining to provide evidence as to how the reported $1.375 million had been spent delivering them, the charity said that – like the discontinued Hillsong pilot – the bulk had gone on staff salaries and training.
A presentation delivered by Many Rivers to potential donors, and obtained by news.com.au, claimed a single field officer in a “developing regional community” would cost the charity $250,000 to support per year.
Since 2010, Many Rivers has obtained an additional $1 million from the Federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, $522,000 from the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations and more from the West Australian Government.
Westpac Bank has provided $1 million over five years as well as all loan capital since mid-2010. Other private donors include Transfield, Fortescue Metals Group, Chevron, Woodside Petroleum and Exxon Mobil as well as law firms Blake Dawson and Minter Ellison.
As CEO of Many Rivers, Mr Coleman has been paid an undisclosed amount for his services on a contract basis since the charity’s creation as a legal entity in 2007 through his private firm Looking Glass Holdings, which he runs with his wife Vera.
These services were never put out to tender. Vera Coleman was listed as a member of the company in the 2007-2008 financial statements.
Vera Coleman is also a former Hillsong Pastor and, according to her CV on the Looking Glass Trust website, worked for Hillsong Emerge between 1996 and 2007 and helped initiate the pilot for the Redfern component of Hillsong’s microfinance program which her husband oversaw until it had funding cancelled.
She also helped develop the controversial “Shine” program for young women which was criticised for teaching young women self esteem through learning how to apply make-up, style their hair and walk with books balanced on their heads.”
Nikki Sava’s book, Plots and Prayers, reveals that Scotty and his fellow Pentecostal and close friend and numbers man Stuart Robert, prayed that “righteousness would exalt the nation,” in the minutes before Mr Morrison was made prime minister by the Liberal party room. “…righteousness would mean the right person had won,” Mr Robert told Savva.
Independent Australia have an excellent article revisiting the ‘litany of transgressions’ by the righteous Stuart Robert. It’s a long list but it didn’t stop Scotty from promoting his mate in faith.
Pentecostalism is on the rise in Australia, particularly with the young.
“Australia’s largest churches in every capital city and in the regions are all Pentecostal churches,” said Andrew Singleton, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Research at Deakin University.
“Starting with Hillsong in Sydney and churches in Melbourne and Adelaide like Planet Shakers, Riverside Church, Paradise Church are all Pentecostal.
“More people are attending Pentecostal churches than any other Christian denomination, they put bums on seats.”
If people are not concerned about the deliberate infiltration of politics by conservatives with religious backing, they should be, particularly when they are preaching their “prosperity doctrine” to our youth and our politicians.
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