The Lithgow City Council refused permission for Jeff Oliver to open Flirt Adult Store on Lithgow's Main Street, so he appealed the decision to the Land and Environment Court and won the case.
Local members of the Exclusive Brethren offered to fund the council's appeal to the Supreme Court, and the council was ready to accept the money after the New South Wales Department of Local Government decided there was no legal impediment to the city "accepting a donation from a third party."
The city elected not to pursue the appeal, however, and the Flirt Adult Store opened.
Lithgow City Councilmember Martin Ticehurst said he was disturbed that it is perfectly legal for councils to accept money from groups — such as the Brethren — that wanted to influence outcomes.
"It's not just the involvement of religious groups that concerns me," Ticehurst said. "Councils should not be allowed to accept money from any activist group. It could be perceived as a form of bribery, and I think it's potentially dangerous."
Eros Association Media Director Robbie Swan thinks more interference from the Exclusive Brethren is coming.
"There is increasing evidence that the exclusive brethren have infiltrated other morals groups around the nation and have embarked on a national campaign to stop adult retail shops from opening," Swan said.
"There is also increasing evidence that their members are secretly being elected to local councils, with moral agendas their main reason for being there. There's an urgent need for a national [investigation] into just how far this 'entryism' has gone and to what extent local government decisions on moral matters have been compromised by this cult."
The fundamentalist group, which calls itself "a Christian Fellowship based on the Holy Scriptures," does not allow its members to vote and is reportedly a donor to Australia's Liberal Party.