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Maori politicians "endorse church's homophobia"

Wed 8 Jun 2011 In: New Zealand Daily News

Picture: 3 News The attendance of a cross-section of Maori politicians at a Destiny Church conference is being slammed as an endorsement of the church's homophobia and misogyny by the political representatives. At the weekend politicians including National MP Tau Henare, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, Labour MP Shane Jones and the leader of the new Mana Party, Hone Harawira attended the church's conference. They had a chance to address the congregation which was responsible for fiercely militant anti-civil union protests under the guidance of anti-gay preacher Brian Tamaki, who also refused to acknowledge Georgina Beyer is a woman. The Green Party was not invited and out MP Kevin Hague has hit out at the attendance of other MPs, summed up in his tweet, "Destiny Church represents black-shirt fascism. I've no tolerance for other parties' self-serving rationalisations." Maori academic Leonie Pihama points out that none of the 'heterosexual Maori male politicians' standing on the Destiny Church stage challenged the underpinning homophobia and misogyny that is espoused by Brian Tamaki. "We should never forget the kinds of hate speeches that Maori gay and lesbian whanau were bombarded with during the Civil Union debate, and the ongoing homophobia that Destiny Church leaders and members continue to openly express with both fervor and hatred," she says. She questions what avoiding such questions 'like the plague' says to the many Maori gay and lesbian people, then answers; "it says that yet again we are easily sacrificed for 0.5% of the vote." Māori women’s group Te Wharepora Hou has also been quick with condemnation, declaring the politicians have implicitly endorsed the church’s homophobic and misogynist stance, by supporting their conference. “Not one politician spoke against the discriminatory principals of Destiny Church over the weekend. We are outraged that a show of support for takatāpui people and their whānau was sacrificed for political expediency,” spokesperson Marama Davidson says. She says the conservative, intolerant messages that are anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-women are quite opposed to the general direction that Aotearoa is heading in. "We believe that these Māori politicians have significantly misread the Māori electorate. We believe the overwhelming majority of Māori will shy away from politicians who are in any way associated with Destiny Church. We want all our children to grow up in a community where they are loved and encouraged and not discriminated or repressed for who they are," Davidson adds. The attendees have been quick to rationalise their visit as a chance to address voters and Henare has added that he does not hate members of the Destiny Church. However he refused to be drawn on whether he agreed with its hard-line stance on sexuality, but said it was "freaky" when church members laid their hands on his chest. "I expected steam to come off," he says. Harawira made it quite clear that he was attending the conference despite some of his members advising him against it, but took the stance that he will go where he is invited and will not play favourites. Newstalk ZB reports Labour Deputy Leader Annette King was "a bit tetchy" when asked about the attendance of her MP Shane Jones at the conference. "Most MPs are allowed to go most places and I haven't really got a comment to make whether we went to Destiny Church, a Catholic church, a Presbyterian church or no church," she said. Whanau Ora bid It has since emerged that Destiny is applying for government contracts for initiatives such as the health programme Whanau Ora. Prime Minister John Key has responded by saying the church can bid for contracts like anybody else. "But from our perspective, they are one of many, many people who have put their name forward for a contract - in the end the officials decide that," he says. Dr Sharples says the church runs some good social welfare and education programmes. He would not commit to backing calls for funding but said he would "certainly listen" to any formal request.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 8th June 2011 - 12:26pm

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