Article Title:Of Christians and Conferences
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:10th October 2006 - 12:00 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
Story ID:1446
Text:While Brethrengate may have occupied our attention here, two conservative Christian New Zealanders attended conferences as keynote speakers in Canada and Australia. In Canada, the Maxim Institute's Paul Henderson was hosted by the Institute for Marriage and the Family at a get-together on 'family policy.' Oddly enough, IMFC doesn't seem to have conspicuous myopia against same-sex marriage. While it still opposes it, it's also anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia and anti-childcare. That said, apparently Henderson presented a paper entitled "The Family in the 21st Century: What's Love Got to Do With It?" I could refer to Tina Turner's lyrics about 'secondhand emotions' and raise the question of former Institute employee Bruce Logan at this point, but I won't. Unfortunately, the Maxim Institute has no transcript of his speech available as yet. Meanwhile, across the ditch, Otago University Law Professor Rex Ahdar was speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby's national conference in Canberra. ACL is akin to our Maxim Institute, albeit softer in some areas. For example, it actually supported registered partnership provisions and some level of LGBT relationship recognition in federal and state law. Question is, how much? Incidentally, ACL's Jim Wallace will be a guest at our own Family First's get together on 'family policy,' later this month, which should be interesting. Anyway, Ahdar's speech is available on transcript. Ahdar admits that New Zealand and Australia have broad and meaningful provisions for religious freedom. Secularisation and liberalism have increased, to the point where secularists and non-fundamentalists dare exercise our right to free speech and comment about LGBT ordination within certain Christian denominations. I did appreciate his balance when it came to acknowledging the existence of religiously based terrorism as well. And to be accurate, not just extremist Islamist elements like al Queda, but fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion terrorists and Hindu supremacist paramilitary groups within India, although he didn't mention them. What are the limits to religious freedom, he asks? There tends to be a different approach to questions of freedom of belief, conscience, assembly and worship on the one hand, and unrestricted practice on the other, for the very simple reason that not all Christian denominations agree with each other on matters of public policy, nor neccessarily do nontheists or those of different faiths. That is, religious freedom has wide bounds unless it interferes directly with the rights and freedoms of others. There are dangers in going too far- like attempted censorship of 'blasphemous' art, or vandalism directed against it. I don't neccessarily disagree with Ahdar on this issue. I don't think any of us would deny conservative Christians the right to freedom of belief, conscience, assembly and worship, but we reserve the right to lobby for evidence-based scientific and medically based public policy like inclusive adoption legislation open to same-sex couples. If conservative Christians dissent, then that is guaranteed to them under democratic cornerstones like religious freedom and church-state separation. For example, one wonders what Ahdar would say about a New Zealand case in which devout Jehovahs Witness parents tried to stop their infant having a blood transfusion because it was against their religious beliefs, but was neccessary to save the life of the baby in question. We're left with two different facets of the same issue here. Evidently, in a globalised world, the Christian Right is intent on networking with like-minded individuals and organisations. However, so can we. Not recommended: http://www.acl.org.au Australian Christian Lobby http://www.familyfirst.org.nz Family First Lobby (NZ) http://www.imfcanada.org Institute for Marriage and the Family (Canada) http://www.maxim.org.nz Maxim Institute Craig Young - 10th October 2006    
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