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Draft national statement on religious diversity May 28, 2007

Posted by Ian in Religion.
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Rant time!

Thanks to another post on Allan’s blog (here) I just became aware that NZ has a draft statement on religious diversity (read it here).

For once it seems New Zealand has had a brain explosion at a political level in terms of religion. The NZ Human Rights Commission released this draft statement late last year some time . I will address a few points this statement makes since I seem to have missed the window to submit.

New Zealand is a country of many faiths with a significant minority who profess no religion. Increasing religious diversity is a significant feature of public life.

I have no problem with religious diversity per se. However the concept of it increasing is certainly a bizarre one. The credibility of any one religion goes down proportionate to the number of alternative religions there are. It would seem to me to be in the interest of religion in general to maintain as little religious diversity as possible. I also am not sure 35% of people constitutes a “significant minority” – its a big chunk of the population! Nearly as many as voted for the Labour or National in fact…

Christianity has played and continues to play a formative role in the development of New Zealand in terms of the nation’s identity, culture, beliefs, institutions and values.

This statement is a joke. I could equally validy say that the All Blacks have played and continue to play a formative role etc etc. The fact of the matter is the role of Christianity is getting shunted further and further from the front of most peoples minds. Life in New Zealand is not dominated by Christian values at all except insofar as western culture shares many christian tenets.

Anyway onto the framework itself:

The following statement provides a framework for the recognition of New Zealand’s diverse faith communities and their harmonious interaction with each other, with government and with other groups in society:

Clearly the writer of this statement failed to notice that the “harmonious interaction” of different faiths is rather frowned upon by religion! That aside, here are the 8 points of the framework:

1. The State and Religion
The State seeks to treat all faith communities and those who profess no religion equally before the law. New Zealand has no official or established religion.

This make sense. If this is a principle however, why mention Christianity at all! (see above)

2. The Right to Religion
New Zealand upholds the right to freedom of religion and belief and the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of religious or other belief.

Fortunately this seems to be one of those standard PC principles that doesn’t mean anything. I certainly hope fundamentalist creationists can be discriminated against because I certainly don’t want them teaching their pseudoscience in our schools!

3. The Right to Safety
Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.

I don’t see the point in this principle. Why should Faith communities get special protection?

4. The Right of Freedom of Expression
The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media are vital for democracy but should be exercised with responsibility.

No arguments here – but what has this got to do with religion?

5. Recognition and Accommodation
Reasonable steps should be taken in educational and work environments and in the delivery of public services to recognise and accommodate diverse religious beliefs and practices

What about non-religious beliefs and practices? This is a very worrying principle – it basically advocates bending over backwards for any religion. Surely if a religous person gets some special benefit, all atheists should be compensated in turn?

6. Education
Schools should teach an understanding of different religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the diversity of their national and local community.

I agree in principle. However NZ schools are not well equipped to deal with religious education. Why? Because the only people who will end up teaching this are Christians! And how can you teach that more than one religion may have validity without completely discrediting the whole exercise?

7. Religious Differences
Debate and disagreement about religious beliefs will occur but must be exercised within the rule of law and without resort to violence.

This is an innately stupid principle. It should state “Religious matters shall recieve no special treatment from the law”.

8. Cooperation and understanding
Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding.

Again, this special focus on religious people is pointless. ALL people share this responsibility – religion is not a special case.

Right, thats my rather rushed and irritated rant about that 🙂

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