Peter Costello will continue his long association with the extreme Christian group Catch the Fire ministries on Australia Day, when the group holds a “prayer celebration” at Melbourne Town Hall.

Catch the Fire pastor Danny Nalliah met with both John Howard and Peter Costello prior to the last election. Costello, who has met with Nalliah “a number of times” was outspoken in his support for Nalliah when he was unsuccessfully prosecuted for religious vilification following attacks on Muslims, including calling them “demons” and associating them with drug-trafficking, in the group’s newsletter.

The group has also attacked gays and lesbians, and in December the group criticised the Federal Government for dumping Warwick Marsh as a men’s health ambassador following Crikey’s revelation of a homophobic publication by Marsh’s group. A press release attacked the Prime Minister and Nicola Roxon for “pandering to homosexual couples” and adopting an “official government policy — if you don’t think homosexuality is normal you have a problem. You are to be discriminated against.”

Nalliah told Crikey Costello had provided a special DVD message for the Australia Day event, and would personally attend if other commitments permitted — apparently Costello is attending a citizenship ceremony as well. “The message is absolutely wonderful,” Nalliah said. “It emphasises the role of the church in praying for the nation in a time of economic crisis.”

The group has invited other political figures to attend but says it is unsure who will be there on the day.

Catch the Fire are big fans of Costello’s. “What you see is what you get,” said Nalliah about the former Treasurer. “No flip-flopping.” In fact, Nalliah met with Costello in 2007 in order to “prepare” Costello for the Prime Ministership. Following the meeting, the group’s website offered a follower’s vision of the divine election of Costello, describing:

Jesus visiting Peter Costello. Jesus was preparing his priestly role and as Peter Costello stood in black suite (legal) Jesus began to pull away from his garments invisible threads of law and religion… Then Peter Costello is seated and Jesus stands in front of him and puts His hands on Peter Costello’s shoulders and then standing from behind Jesus again puts His hands on Peter Costello’s shoulders but I notice the right hand has fingers and thumb spread out.

This signifying 5 members and in the 5th term for coalition, the governmental leadership will be on Peter Costello’s shoulders. Current prayer need on my heart is the new Treasurer to stand with Peter Costello as P.M.

While Jesus was evidently playing a little joke at that point, Costello’s faith in Catch the Fire evidently remains strong. While there might have been some political basis for his association with the group in the past — the Coalition consistently received strong support from fundamentalist groups like Catch the Fire and the Exclusive Brethren — it’s now clear that Costello is a personal supporter of this mob.