Australian Prime Minister John Howard has refused to distance himself from an evangelical pastor with links to an anti-Semitic organization.
Pastor Danny Nalliah, the head of the Melbourne-based Catch The Fire Ministries, addressed the Australian League of Rights in 2005 and has accepted another offer from the far-right organization, which has denied the Holocaust.
Howard, who appears to be facing defeat at the polls on Nov. 24, this week described the League of Rights as “a bit anti-Semitic,” but said, “As for what people I meet do, any more than you can be responsible for what the people you meet do, I can’t be responsible either.”
Nalliah said he previously has been granted private audiences with Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello.
Grahame Leonard, the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, stopped just short of criticizing Howard, who has been a staunch supporter of the Jewish community and Israel.
“We would urge all our politicians to publicly distance themselves from the pastor and his views,” he said.
The B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council criticized Nalliah’s decision to accept the league’s invitation.
Nalliah defended that decision, telling The Age newspaper, “I am a Christian minister – my task is to go after the sinner, not cast away the sinner. There is no one beyond redemption.”