Title: Is the Christian right about to abandon its anti-gay stance? Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 13th July 2005 - 12:00pm1121212800 Article: 815 Rights
It had to happen sooner or later. The Christian Right is about to find that other social issues are going to take precedence over abortion and lesbian/gay rights. Which ones? It is a truism that whether liberal or conservative, professional supporters enable social movements of various political colourations to achieve their law reform objectives. At the University of Toronto, Mariana Valverde described how first-wave feminists aligned themselves with 'social purity' conservative Christians against permissive alcohol regulation, sex work and in favour of sterilisation of the intellectually disabled or "undeserving poor" immigrants. These groups had assistance from conservative medical practitioners and other key professional organisations. Mind you, abortion, homosexual and prostitution law reform movements wouldn't have achieved their reform objectives without assistance from liberal professional groups in the seventies, eighties and early twenty-first century here either, so it cuts both ways. As we wind down toward confrontations over adoption law reform in the intermediate future, lesbian/gay rights activists and the Christian Right will find ourselves in increasing debate over research from the fields of developmental psychology and pediatrics over same-sex parenting issues. What about other social movements, though? In New Zealand, the Christian Right is liable to find itself fighting an uphill battle against Sue Bradford's proposed Crimes (Abolition of Force As A Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill. Bradford's private members bill is intended to abolish the excuse of 'reasonable force' that currently justifies the use of child battery against kids. It is not about 'smacking'- it is about the use of sticks, belts, baseball bats, strands of barbed wire, electrical jug cords and other implements to belt children. I am tired of lazy pollsters avoiding the issue here, which is child battery. Why not ask New Zealanders whether they support the use of implements like those described above to hit children? I can guess the result... Certainly, many New Zealand child health and welfare professional groups already realise that the current interpretation of Section 59 of the Crimes Act provides ridiculous latitude to abusive, dysfunctional and violent parents to batter their children. At the Auckland University of Technology's Institute of Public Policy website, there is currently a useful list of organisations that support repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act as a cover for abuse. These include respected organisations like the National Council of Women, Plunket, Barnardos, Relationship Services, Women's Refuge, Save the Children, the Public Health Association, the Pediatric Society, the Psychological Society, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, the Child Poverty Action Group, Child Abuse Prevention Service, Office of the Commissioner for Children, Presbyterian Support, Parents Centres, Birthright, UNICEF, YWCA and EPOCH (End Physical Punishment of Children). Who supports belting kids? Guess. Yep, it's a motley crew of Christian Right pressure groups without professional support for their objectives. After the conviction of Graham Capill, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the Christian Right's real objective is really 'safeguarding parental 'rights'' as they claim, or covering up abnormal levels of violent offending against children. I make no such claims against individual outfits involved in the Christian Right campaign against Section 59 repeal, however. At the moment, these consist of Destiny New Zealand, the Maxim Institute, Reformed Church minister Garnet Milne and Family Integrity, an allied Palmerston North based fundamentalist pressure group with past CHP connections. As evidence of their bad faith, take a look at the Family Integrity online pamphlets on the issue, which refer to spanking, not smacking. This term has already escalated the level of violent discipline against children involved in this debate. These anti-child groups talk about near-absolute parental 'rights' in this context. What about childrens rights? What about parental responsibilities, to bring up kids to be responsible citizens who engage in mature and reasoned debate to resolve problems, not arbitrary use of physical force? Put simply, stop mollycoddling abusive parents, and society benefits. If there are fewer battered kids now, there may be fewer gang prospects- and gaybashers? - down the line. If the New Zealand Christian Right faces an uphill battle against the professional allies of child battery law reform, then it may face an impending nightmare due to recent developments in the United Kingdom. On July 4th, the British Medical Association decided to abandon its organisational opposition to voluntary euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. This increases the likelihood of future possible euthanasia law reform outside the current cordon sanitaire of the Netherlands, Belgium and Oregon. The BMA backdown deprives anti-euthanasia groups of implicit professional backing for their religious stance against death with dignity. The New Zealand Christian Right faces a difficult choice. Either it concedes that abortion rights and same-sex parenting reform issues are lost issues now, and overcomes inertia, or it neglects building opposition to Section 59 reform and eventual euthanasia law reform. It can no longer do both. Section 59 Reform: "BMA Drops Euthanasia Opposition" (4.07.05): Crimes (Amendment of Force as A Justification for Child Discipline) Bill: Christian Right Anti-Child Groups: Family Integrity: Maxim Institute: Reformation Testimony: See also: Rex Ahdar and James Allan "Taking Smacking Seriously: A Case for Retaining the Legal Status Parental Smacking in New Zealand" New Zealand Law Review 2001 Part 1: [Ahdar and Allan attempt to make an evidence-based anti-reform argument. Thus far, theirs is the only such attempt. Ahdar is a self-acknowledged conservative Christian and legal academic at Otago University] Craig Young - 13th July 2005    
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