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Title: (Lacking) Vision Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 2nd August 2005 - 12:00pm1122940800 Article: 847 Rights
 
On 1 August, the NZ Herald carried a shallow article about Vision New Zealand. This is an organisation of about three hundred and fifty evangelical and fundamentalist churches and pressure groups. It opposed the Civil Union Act, just as it opposed the Relationship Property Act 2001. True, Vision NZ should win marks for its civility and respectful tone, compared to Destiny Church, but there's not much else to commend its particular antigay stance for. Given that it wrote a submission against passage of the Civil Union Act, I thought I'd concentrate attention on that as a statement of its current thinking on LGBT issues. Actually, Vision has been around for quite a while. In the nineties, it published three volumes about the current state of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity in the nineties. As is usual with Christian Right pressure groups, Vision NZ argues that heterosexual marriage is a divinely-ordained institution, although family historians and sociologists would question that claim outside the US Christian Right 'marriage movement.' Lawrence Stone and Stevan Eldred-Grigg give a quite different picture for Britain and New Zealand, respectively. Moreover, why was the Maxim Institute given special input to Vision's consultation process, as opposed to mainline church social service agencies? Surely the latter would have been able to give a more balanced perspective? It's trying to pretend that it does have mainline Protestant coverage, and Granny Herald has been gullible enough to swallow that, in a puff piece on VNZ as a "moderate" organisation. As for polygamy/polyamory, if there is no social movement and associated social scientific/medical research related to polygamy/polyamory, how is it supposed to be a 'threat' to monogamous heterosexual relationships? There is no such threat, because there is no organised polygamy movement within New Zealand, as opposed to the United States. Insofar as their actual anti-CUA submission went, Vision New Zealand made a number of odd remarks. Firstly, it is not the case that there is a unified 'Christian' demographic constituency, whatever Vision might say. Anglicans aren't all that fundamentalist, and they're the largest Christian denomination, and then there's nominal adherence to consider, which reduces the actual numbers of evangelicals and fundamentalists still further. Moreover, the largest religious category is still 'no religious adherence' and it's increasing. Three, despite growing numbers of other great faith adherents and post-Christians, Vision opposes church/state separation. Why should those of us who don't share particular sectarian Christian viewpoints be forced to accept them, even if they cause harm in their wake? Shouldn't religious institutions be accountable to society if they do cause such harm, as in the case of clergy paedophilia? It's telling that VNZ's Glyn Carpenter had little to say when confronted with Capillgate. Vision's submission made a series of assertions. Now, in a multifaith and pluralist society, it goes without saying that if they want to hold a particular set of beliefs, act according to their interpretation of conscience (except if it tangibly harms others), worship and associate within their own sects and denominations, then they should be entitled to do so, given the fact that New Zealand would be violating international religious freedom conventions if it did so. I wouldn't have used four whole pages for a parliamentary submission to make those doctrinal statements and references to scriptural proof-texts, though. However, public policy needs more. It needs social scientific, medical and other professional evidence-based studies to substantiate its claims, and Vision didn't do that. It made observations that were completely unrelated to the subject of civil unions and relationship recognition. I doubt whether mainline Protestants would agree with them about abortion or the alleged "pathology" of social welfare, for example. Moreover, what about realism in the context of heterosexual relationships? What about domestic violence, intramarital rape, divorce and other less salutory aspects of some heterosexual marriages? Fundamentalist Presbyterian Arnold Turner interpreted "discrimination" in the context of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and Human Rights Act 1993, and cites Quilter v Attorney-General [1993]. Hmm, but what about the other jurisdictions that have equalised spousal status legislation, though, Arnold, as cited in the schedule related to the Relationship (Statutory References) Bill? New Zealand's CUA/RSRA are part of a global trend toward relationship equality legislation. For some reason, Turner ignored these overseas social and legal developments. And it's no good saying that social change shouldn't lead to legislative reform either. I doubt whether Turner would similarly object to Wilberforce's evangelical involvement in the antislavery movement of the nineteenth century, for instance. W.J.Brookbanks was the final contributor that I'll cite here. Brookbanks provides a dubious fundamentalist perspective on marriage, family and the law, but it was a seriously flawed one. It relies almost exclusively on secondary sources, apart from Robert Book, the right-wing ex-Republican nominee for US Supreme Court justice in the nineties, and Pitrim Sorokin, a conservative structuralist-functionalist sociologist from the fifties. Once again, Brookbanks advances no evidence-based claims to support his claims. Vision New Zealand is to be commended for the civility and respectful tone of its arguments, but their organisation needed to give substantive reasons for denial of relationship recognition to same-sex couples in their arguments and submissions on these matters. They didn't. And why does it pretend that any mainline fundamentalist contributors are representative of their denominations, when this is not the case? It may look more moderate, it may not cite Cameron's junk science, but it isn't 'mainstream,' as the analysis of its Civil Union Act submission demonstrates. Recommended Reading: Vision New Zealand website: http://www.vision.org.nz W.J.Brookbanks "A Christian Perspective on Marriage, Family and the Law" Glyn Carpenter: "Marriage, Civil Unions and Other Relationships" Daystar (August 2004) Glyn Carpenter: "Submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee: Civil Union and Relationship (Statutory References) Bills- 30th July 2004" Arnold Turner: "The Civil Union Bill and Human Rights- Discrimination." Craig Young - 2nd August 2005    
 
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