|Brian Tamaki Despite assurances from Waitangi Day event officials that the Destiny Church and political party's anti-gay guru Brian Tamaki would have no part in official functions, Tamaki was undeniably there.
Pictures of him seated between National Party leader Don Brash and activist Tame Iti at a powhiri were beamed live to the nation, and reports have subsequently emerged that the following day he was even part of the official church service and spoke at length. What were takatapui (GLBT Maori) to think? What were the wider gay and lesbian community to think, with the country's most hateful religious intolerant welcomed onto Waitangi marae on a day which was supposed to be for all New Zealanders? The implications were both insulting and frightening. Was this an official sanction for the rise of Maori Christian fundamentalism? How did this happen? A few days earlier, on February 3rd, GayNZ.com responded to media reports that Tamaki would be appearing in an official capacity at Waitangi Day celebrations by contacting organisers to have the reports confirmed. Both the Waitangi National Trust and the office of Anglican Bishop Kito Pikaahu, organiser of the official interdenominational church service at Waitangi Marae on Sunday February 6th, denied that Tamaki would have any part in the service and expressed surprise at the news he would even be present. Yet Destiny continued to issue press releases and trundle Tamaki out insisting that they would have a presence. Tamaki even claimed he would be a "keynote speaker". Ironically, the only non-gay media commentator to raise an eyebrow was John Banks, back in the wasteland of talkback on Radio Pacific. "But just a minute..." Banks interjected during a live interview with Tamaki a few days before Waitangi Day, "this Prime Minister and Labour government wouldn't much like you, anything about you, your church or your followers. So how did you manage to get your backsides onto the Waitangi marae?" How indeed? Because despite all those assurances from officials, when the weekend of February 6th rolled around at Waitangi, Tamaki was there. In the wake of Tamaki's megalomaniacal announcement that he is escalating his position from self-appointed pastor to self-appointed Bishop of his own church, GayNZ.com can now reveal the disturbing, bully-style tactics by which he came to play a major part in the official church service, thanks to an exclusive interview with Anglican Bishop Kito Pikaahu, Te Pihopa o te Tai Tokerau. The Anglican Bishop's authoritative and candid explanation will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Destiny over the last year, but the truth of what happened at Waitangi this year is nothing short of a scary escalation in the use of extreme religious thuggery. * Anglican Bishop Kito Pikaahu seems like a no-nonsense kind of a guy, an interesting figure in a church where we're used to seeing leaders with extremes - over-conciliatory liberals or Leviticus-style fundamentalists. Bishop Pikaahu is refreshingly forthright and honest in adown-to-earth way. In organising the interdenominational church service at Waitangi, Bishop Pikaahu says he spoke to several leaders from a number of churches. One of these conversations was with Ratana Church representatives from Wanganui. A political schism of late in the Ratana Church has seen some members want to continue to nourish the long relationship they've enjoyed with Labour, while others want to throw their weight behind the newly-formed Maori Party. Still others, including factions heading north for Waitangi this year, had a date with Destiny - and wanted to carry Brian Tamaki in on their coat-tails. Bishop Pikaahu said no. "The Ratana Church was told by the National Trust to work in with me over the service. I said definitely no to Brian Tamaki, there's no way he's going to be part of it," recalls Pikaahu. And as far as Ratana were concerned "they would have a written part, not a speaking part, [in the service]." According to Pikaahu, the Ratana Church had been attempting to hold its own independent service at Waitangi, but had not been given permission by the Waitangi National Trust to do so. The response from Ratana, and from their friends in Destiny, was to take a leaf from Tamaki's book and simply turn up en masse, large and loud. And, clearly, uninvited. "We were seated ready and they marched up," Pikaahu says. "It was one big march. It was like a liturgical procession. They didn't just gather, they marched up with a band playing. They knew what time our service was, and they came about five minutes into it with their brass bugles and everything else." An estimated 800 people, comprising both Ratana and Destiny members, simply marched onto the marae with the intent of holding their own rival church service. Other, independent, observers say they're still disturbed by what happened, reporting that the uninvited ringleaders "swarmed" around Bishop Pikaahu to pressure him into letting them be part of the service. With the whole day under the watchful eye of the country's media, keen to catalogue any disruption to the day, Bishop Pikaahu was faced with a serious dilemma. "The official service book never had one Ratana name nor Destiny name in it," he says. "The reason why is because they were never part of it. But when you have 800 people who are going to disrupt our service... they had no respect for what we were doing." Bishop Pikaahu believes Ratana Church headquarters in Wanganui had informed their Waitangi congregation up north that they were in charge of the service. Among with the 800-strong mob of gatecrashers were twenty clergymen, all ready and waiting to conduct their own service. "They were misled by their own people, and it was their political people who did that," Pikaahu says. With Destiny having already caused offence by an aggressive presence at the official powhiri the previous day, Bishop Pikaahu felt he had to move quickly to calm a potential media storm. "Had they stood alongside us and taken their own service, he [Tamaki] would have been given more air. It would have been seen that the churches were divided, but in effect we weren't divided - we just didn't want him to be there." Under pressure, Pikaahu gave local Ratana representatives - not Destiny - five minutes as part of the official service. "What I did was in order to prevent any chaos, with two services taking place on the same grounds." But when their turn came, Ratana's local representatives handed over to the national Ratana members from Wanganui, who after twenty minutes of hijacking the service in turn ceded their platform to the gatecrashing Tamaki. GayNZ.com attempted in the days following Waitangi to obtain a transcript of Tamaki's speech from Destiny Church, but they did not respond to our enquiries. We can now report that Tamaki extended Ratana's five-minute slot into a half-hour rant on the moral decline of the nation, laying the blame squarely at the door of gays and lesbians being given the right to marry. Bishop Pikaahu was considerably unimpressed with Tamaki's presentation and with his content. "He just mumbles. Basically, what he said was this whole moral debate that he gets into. But it's all mumbling. He was only there performing to the camera, that's all. It was very much a political rally that he was doing, actually. It was utter tripe." Pikaahu spoke immediately after Tamaki. "I said I thought that what they did was no different to what the protesters do every year. I used the words to Destiny: 'You've come here to flex your muscles. That's not a Christ-like response to the occasion at all.' I wanted to remind them that it's not taken lightly at all." It was a weekend of political opportunism for both Destiny and Ratana, who Bishop Pikaahu says are working together and using each other. "It's a very unusual alliance. But when you get desperate you'll align yourself with anyone. I made the comment when I spoke that, theologically, Ratana and Destiny are extremes. They're extremists. I can't believe that we were all sitting together under the same roof, theologically we are so different from each other. Anglicans... we're more moderate." But Tamaki's fundamentalist steamroller tactic had worked for him yet again. Unwilling or unable to gain prestige from his religious peers, he invented his own church complete with ecclesiastical hierarchy to perch himself on top of. Unhappy with the Civil Union Bill, he swarmed the streets of Wellington last August with black-shirted fist- waving followers to intimidate the capital and Parliament. Unhappy with the bill's victory, he threatened to close Auckland's Harbour Bridge with even bigger numbers and another march. And uninvited to Waitangi, he turned up with massed acolytes to forcibly give his brand of religious bigotry an apparent official sanction by fusing it with Maoridom. Bishop Pikaahu says it won't happen again. Firstly, he doesn't anticipate Destiny will even turn up next year. "It's an election year this year. People want space. All Destiny did was to show their true colours. They did that at the powhiri, they did that at worship time on Sunday as well. They maximised it... they wanted to make a big scene. I must say it was Ratana in conjunction with Destiny, using each other." The Bishop wanted to assure us that Destiny had no influence at Waitangi. "You can be assured that Destiny don't have any influence up here whatsoever. But there's a neat little trick in the tail of this story of fundamentalist thuggery. "I was referring to them as Density when I was speaking Maori. That's how I referred to them," says Bishop Pikaahu. "In Maori you can say things like that and get away with it. He [Tamaki] didn't know what I was saying." (Editor's note: Neither Ratana nor Destiny have been available to discuss Tamaki's speech and tactics, we will continue to try to gain a response from them in the coming week.) Chris Banks - 20th February 2005