American Toastmasters bosses have outlawed a small Wellington public speaking club's "meet the candidates" evening because they say it would be participating in politics.
The Karori Toastmasters club had lined up five Wellington Central candidates and had begun promoting the event - but Toastmasters International managers in the United States intervened, forcing the meeting to be cancelled.
New Zealand leaders of Toastmasters contacted world headquarters in the US and, after getting a decision, passed on to Karori's club the ruling that the event would amount to participating in a political campaign.
The Karori club tried to negotiate a compromise, without success.
It was threatened with suspension from the international organisation if it did not cancel the event.
Club president Graeme Peters says Toastmasters has lost touch with its grassroots.
"Instead of being run by and for members, it has been taken over by over-cautious employees and bureaucrats bent over rulebooks."
Members are disappointed at "bullying and lack of support" from the Toastmasters governance, Mr Peters says.
The idea had been to promote the meeting as an educational event, and to provide a clear statement distancing Toastmasters from any candidate's views.
"Political candidates are effectively professional speakers, and our members were looking forward to seeing and analysing their speech structure, content, vocal variety, and body language," says Mr Peters.
Ironically, the latest TMI publication has a feature story about the US presidential election being an excellent learning platform for those wanting to improve their public speaking performance.
Linda McGurk, a communications specialist from Indiana, analyses the public speaking styles of the two presidential candidates.