|What does that habitual New Right nostrum, social welfare privatisation, have to do with New Zealand's LGBT communities?
Plenty, if we're not careful. Think about it. Religious social service providers constitute much of the alternative social security network if central government income assistance proves insufficient. If these religious social service providers are affiliated to the Methodist or Anglican Churches or other inclusive denomination or faith, then all is well. However, what if that isn't the case?
In the mid-nineties, the Republican-dominated US House of Representatives privatised social welfare in the United States wholesale, although it had to be said that it was already meagre and limited, from the perspective of European and Australasian welfare states. Its much-vaunted “faith based initiatives,' might have been fine, if there had been proper regulatory oversight and strategic management, with specified goals and outcomes for these organisations. There wasn't.
Federal and state Republicans then engaged in rampant wholesale pork-barrelling, giving contracts to their Christian Right federal and state cronies, with predictable outcomes. These fundamentalists had negligible skills in actual social service provision, and made ridiculous statements that inferred that "individual behaviour" was at the root of poverty, not entrenched institutional discrimination and social service cutbacks. Predictably, unemployment, homelessness, family disintegration, youth suicide, youth criminality and gang formation, and adolescent substance abuse all proliferated sharply since the advent of welfare privatisation within the United States a decade ago.
Later, the Howard administration followed a mitigated model. In that case, there have been some difficulties too. One notorious Australian case was "Mercy Ministries", an exploitative fundamentalist racket that provided negligible proper medical and social work services for young women in crisis, which has given rise to an heroic young women's group called “Mercy Survivors.” Would this rort have been allowed to operate if proper supervision of such outsourced social services had been forthcoming? Fortunately, due to those young women's perserverance and heroism, the Australian Consumers and Corruption Commission slammed Mercy Ministries for its ramshackled approach to 'social service provision' and its outlets have thankfully closed.
The continuing global recession will result in rising unemployment and probably greater levels of mental illness and other hardships. Now is not the time for foolhardy New Right nostrums like “work for the dole”, penny-pinching approaches to provision of Invalids or Sickness Benefits, and categorically not any New Zealand version of radical welfare privatisation.
It is time that the Key administration, ACT, the Business Roundtable and the Centre for Political "Research" all realised that social cohesion is paramount in this time of adversity, and that their right-wing radicalism and its destructive social consequences are not what this country needs. From the United States, we know that there are particular consequences that ensue from such carnage.
Indeed, another recent example has emerged in Britain, associated with Philippa Stroud, a former Conservative Party electoral candidate and Centre for Social Justice head. Let it be noted that the CSJ advocates stronger involvement by religious charities in social service provision, at the same time as Tory central government engages in slashing central government social spending. Stroud was involved in the establishment and management of the "Kings Arm Trust" in Bedford.
In the Observer newspaper, there were previous reports that LGBT clients of that religious social service provider were exposed to 'exorcism' and accusations that they were 'demonically possessed', although Stroud has denied those allegations and the story has been deleted from the Observer website archives.
Now, the Kings Arm Trust did do some good work in rehabilitating down and out alcoholics and drug addicts. While that is commendable, threatening to withhold neccessary food, emergency housing, medical and social services in return for coerced religious conversion or belief is not. At the time of the alleged events, the United Kingdom did not have antidiscrimination law protection, which is not now the case.
Stroud is currently working as a 'special consultant' with the Cameron administration's new Minister for Works and Pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith, himself formerly associated with the Centre for Social Justice.
As a civil servant, she will still be able to implement elements of her desired model for religious social service provision.
Let us not fool ourselves that there are not gay men, lesbians, takatapui, whakawahine and fa'afafine whose lives would not be damaged or destroyed if the advocates of radical welfare privatisation are ever allowed to have their way in this country. The Kings Arm Trust story cited above involved one ambiguous death of a young woman who may have identified as lesbian.
It is time that New Zealand's New Right and their fundamentalist fellow travellers abandoned this foolish and barbaric wish-fulfilment fantasy , once and for all.
http://www.nzcpr.com/ New Zealand Centre for Political Research (Muriel Newman)
http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk UK Centre for Social Justice (UK Tory thinktank)
Recommended Books and Articles:
Amy Black and David Ryden: Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W.Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives: Washington DC: Georgetown University Press: 2004.
Joanne Formicola, Mary Segers and Paul Weber: The Faith-Based Initiatives and the Bush Administration: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield: 2003: (see esp. p.63-184).
Pew Forum: Backgrounder on Faith-Based Initiatives: http://pewforum.org/faith-based-initiatives/Ira Chernus: “The Dark Side of Faithbased Initiatives:”http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~hns/articles/2001/022101.html
Alex Epstein: “Bush's Faithbased Initiative Against Freedom” (1.02.03): http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1472
Kevin Eckstrom: “Gays Express Concern about Bush's Faith-Based Initiative:” http://www.belief.net/story/66/story_6635.html
Michael Kress: “Separation of Church and Gay:” http://www.beliefnet.com/story/74/story_7435.html
National Lesbian and Gay Task Force: George W Watch: Faith- Based Initiatives: http://www.ngltf.org/federal/wwfaith.htm
"Exgay group applies for federal funding" http://www.advocate.com/new_news.asp?id=11084