Title: Reply: Speech, sects and stealth Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 17th January 2006 - 12:00pm1137452400 Article: 1082 Rights
In his recent defence of the Exclusive Brethren sect, Chris Finlayson (National List MP) missed the point about objections to the sect's interference in our political scene. Clearly, in a pluralist democratic society like New Zealand, religious membership shouldn't bar groups or individuals from political participation. However, it is more a question of the ethics of prior Exclusive Brethren participation than actual participation per se. In the most recent issue of the Australian Centre for Independent Studies journal Policy, University of Queensland law lecturer Jonathon Crowe makes the following useful observations about religious participation in pluralist democratic politics. He argues that governments (and intending future governing parties in opposition?) should make decisions on a transparent basis, on evidence-based data, and according to rational debate derived from those premises. In the case of the civil unions debate, those needs were met. There were white papers, there were public debates that presented the legislative and judicial precedents that had introduced relationship recognition legislation overseas, and participation was transparent and democratic. Crowe has a problem with religious organisations that make assertions based on their faith, and without evidence-based proof to substantiate it. They don't convince anyone who doesn't share their religious convictions, and may also be open to questions about religious freedom and religious-state separation if those religious edicts are translated directly into public policy. In order to participate in pluralist democratic political debate, then, religious organisations should behave like the Maxim Institute does, except insofar as Logangate was concerned. Trouble was, the Exclusive Brethren didn't do that, and nor did the Christian Heritage Party before and after Capillgate. If transparency was the yardstick, then anonymous smear pamphleteering didn't meet those grounds. If accountability was the criterion, then National showed itself beholding to an unaccountable, authoritarian and hypocritical fundamentalist sect. In doing so, it turned off urban, liberal and especially female voters, costing it a third term in Opposition. Chris should also take a look at the most recent Australian Quarterly issue, where Geoffrey Hawker takes a look at the troubled New South Wales Liberal Opposition. He argues that social conservative Uglies have seized control of the state party and are costing it vital metropolitan support in Sydney and elsewhere. He should reflect on the fact that apart from the nineties, National has been in Opposition for eleven of the last twenty years, precisely due to similarly Ugly elements in his own caucus. National needs to return to the principles of his predecessor, Attorney-General and Leader of the Opposition Jim McLay when he passed the Official Information Act in 1982, precisely to insure transparency, accountability and their benefits for a democratic society. One hopes that Chris will follow that noble lead. Recommended: Jonathan Crowe: "Preaching to the Converted?" Policy 21: 4 (Summer 2005/6): 28-30. Geoff Hawker: "Comings and Goings: Liberal Party factions in New South Wales" Australian Quarterly 77:5: Sept/Oct 2005: 15-17, 40. "How They Voted on the Age of Consent": Craig Young - 17th January 2006    
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