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Adrift on the Ship of Fools

Fri 10 Mar 2017 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

New Zealand's conservative Christian lobby groups are relatively silent, but it's highly probable that this won't last. At the moment, I'm reminded of the medieval myth of the "Ship of Fools", which zigzagged round German rivers without any apparent navigation. So, let's have a look at both of them. As Colin Craig continues his never-ending stream of reciprocated litigation with his self-perceived political adversaries in the courts, his former Conservative Party has selected former Kiwi Party Christchurch East candidate Leighton Baker as the party's new leader. Unlike Colin Craig, Baker is virtually unknown outside Christchurch and thus far, the Conservative Party has not been articulating much that is new or detailed in terms of its public policies beyond religious social conservatism. Apparently, Baker is going to visit Takapuna and Sandringham in Auckland to make himself accquainted with supporters north of the Bombay Hills. As to why the party doesn't end this farce, I suspect polling somewhere below one percent this time will probably send them a final message. One hopes so, although why do I suspect that when Colin Craig ends his current spate of litigation and pays out whatever amount of money he has been fined, the Conservatives will reappoint him as leader, despite the shenanigans of the last three years? Still, they do seem to be making an effort, releasing new policies on their website. Insofar as the 'health policy' is concerned, it consists of nothing else but dogmatic assertions against abortion and euthanasia and there's the mandatory restatement of its binding referenda policy as its cornerstone policy. However, there is also a reasonably coherent building policy, focused on supply management, demand management, cost factors, skill shortfalls and building regulation. This sounds rather much like it is trying to appeal to centre-right voters, given a primary obsession of National and ACT is gutting the consent provisions of the Resource Management Act to sideline iwi and environmental protests. One suspects Colin Craig had a hand in drafting this particular policy, given his relevant professional expertise in this area. As for the criminal justice ("law and order") policy, it sounds like a Sensible Sentencing Trust wish fulfilment fantasy, with a predictable unbalanced bias against rehabilitation and for punitive penal populist 'solutions.' Bail will be all but abolished, sentence duration will be increased, as will cumulative sentence duration, fine costs will be increased and there will be a stronger emphasis on prohibitionist drug policy. There are some calls for greater attention to white collar crime, but it's all what one would expect. As for Family First, no doubt we'll see its usual "Value Your Vote" list of MP 'moral' positions ("coming soon" on its website), as well as respective party leadership, and "Forums for the Family" get-togethers for New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups. It'll be interesting to see whether it is fantasizing about introducing service provider discrimination legislation akin to the "religious liberty" Trump bill in the United States, despite the fact it has been illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and HIV status when it comes to service provision, employment and accommodation here for the last twenty four years. Their latest tawdry and derivative propaganda stream will probably turn up closer to election day, September 23rd. The problem is, there's not much action going on, apart from the Health select committee's ongoing hearings into the issue of assisted suicide. There's also some friction going on, as conservative Catholics demand that fundamentalist Protestants prioritise opposition to assisted suicide/euthanasia and stop obsessing over 'side issues' (like anti-LGBT activism). There's a lot of resentment bubbling away insofar as Right to Life, Family First and the Conservative Party goes from the membership of the anti-euthanasia movement proper, given how easily the outline fringe groups cited above can be distracted from what 'should' be the main business at hand. Speaking of easy distraction, Family First undertook a spot of metaphorical ambulance chasing over the question of marriage celebrant status, which died down when it became obvious that they weren't getting anywhere at all with it. When the Marriage Amendment Act 2013 was passed, religious institutions and ministers within their auspices were free not to preside over religious wedding services if it conflicted with their religious doctrines. However, that exemption applies to them and only to them. Predictably, some fundamentalist troublemakers are trying to take liberties with the legislation despite not currently being active ministers involved in pastoral care and conducting religious services. One is a former Baptist minister, while the other is a member of the Salvation Army. Marriage celebrants are not entitled to engage in service provision discrimination because of any residual anti-LGBT religious biases because marriage celebration is undertaking civil marriage under the current secular statutory definition, which includes LGBT couples. Therefore, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages is quite entitled to refuse their application for celebrant status if the proposed celebrant has stated she or he is willing to undertake deliberate service provider discrimination in a secular context, which is illegal in this country. However, Family First have remained silent over the pending erasure of historic homosexual offences under Justice Minister Amy Adams. Unfortunately, that isn't the case with their never-ending animus against transgender rights. For some bizarre reason, Family First recounted an article that testified to sexual harassment of women from straight cis-male voyeurism. Apparently, they derived their disjointed diatribe from website entitled "Woman Means Something", which appears to be a deeply unholy alliance between an anti-transgender 'radical feminist' group, Feminist Currents and three Canadian Christian Right groups, the fundamentalist Alliance for Reformed Political Action, anti-feminist REAL Women of Canada and Lifesite News, the far right anti-abortion, anti-LGBT and anti-feminist fake news website of Campaign Life Canada. The offending article makes a grotesque inferential jump, scotch-taping legitimate concerns about straight cis-male sexual harassment of women onto manufactured anti-transgender propaganda. Needless to say, Feminist Currents is not representative at all of most mainstream Canadian feminist organisations, most of which support Bill C-16 and trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws. "Woman Means Something" appears to be a shell group for the US Christian Right litigation group, the Federalist Society on Law and Public Policy, as the latter acknowledges on an article also cited by Family First. How obliging of them. Cherry picked 'resources' and slanted 'literature reviews' do not a 'case' make. In Canada, meanwhile, Bill C-16 has passed its second Canadian Senate reading and is now on its way to the Senate's Legislative Affairs Committee for final review before proceeding to its third reading before becoming law. The Canadian Christian Right's disgusting anti-trans hate-mongering has clearly failed. Unfortunately, in the last week of February 2017, Family First decided to return to their hackneyed campaign against the safety, privacy and educational access rights of transgender students. Using a young (fundamentalist Christian?) woman, they launched a highly derivative website called "Ask Me First". It is based almost verbatim on a US anti-transgender website from the Family Policy Alliance, a US Christian Right front group for the notorious US Christian Right multinational Focus on the Family. Indeed, the allies section even lists New Zealand at the end of a list of US states. While Newstalk ZB, the New Zealand Herald and TV3's Newshub all reported on the item, parents of transgender children launched an effective rebuttal. More recently on that front, Family First linked to a US Christian Right Heritage Foundation media release about an 'alliance' between US radical feminists and US Christian Right opponents of transgender rights. Some trans-inclusive feminists have cast doubt on the authenticity of these organisations, suggesting that they might be 'astroturf' pseudo-feminist organisations. Certainly, their anti-transgender obsession has raised suspicion and doubt among many other US and international feminist groups. In Canada, moreover, the list of mainstream Canadian feminist groups that support transgender rights is long and impressive. Finally, in early March 2017, Family First predictably resorted to more blatant US Christian Right hate-mongering against New Zealand's current inclusive attitude toward transgender student health, safety and protection within primary and secondary schools. As with its marriage equality opposition, the New Zealand Christian Right pressure group has run off to the Witherspoon Institute in the United States and is now citing a diatribe from Public Discourse,its online newsletter. "Biology isn't bigotry", argues its headline. However, the basis of Family First and the US Christian Right's anti-transgender campaign is 'natural law' dogma, a pre-scientific, pre-modern philosophical orthodoxy from the days of Augustine and Aquinas that did not rely on structured depth observation and which was accordingly sidelined when the European scientific revolution began in the seventeenth century and contradicted earlier natural law nostrums. Therefore, it is not"biology." And once more, if something is substantiated on the basis of replicable scientific research, professional consensus and collective positions, then it is scientific fact, not "gender ideology." Transgender transitioning, reassignment surgery and hormone treatment are all verifiable on that basis. Citing a male social conservative on the UK "Conservative Woman" website, using hyperbolic rhetoric about the "annihilation of man" from Pope Francis, and citing propaganda and polemic from the likes of US Christian Right groups like the US Heritage Foundation,Spiked,and the tiny unrepresentative "American College of Pediatricians," a social conservative breakaway group from the mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics, is no "proof" whatsoever. Merely because some "radical feminists" oppose transgender rights does not mean all feminists do. Socialist feminists and liberal feminists do not. Family First also refers to the Liberal/National Coalition New South Wales government and its recent decision to suspend an LGBT-inclusive youth programme. Which is all very well, but the Andrews ALP Victorian State Government is carrying on with the aforementioned LGBT-inclusive youth programme. And Family First takes the opportunity to denounce the mainstream Post-Primary Teachers Association. Bob McCoskrie's own tertiary qualifications are in tax policy and accountancy, not educational psychology, developmental psychology, pediatrics or endocrinology. I question what 'expertise' entitles him to pontificate about transgender youth health and safety in this manner. And, as mentioned above, the current Education Minister, her department and responsible educational professionals like the PPTA have totally ignored Family First's derivative, imported propaganda from the US Christian Right's anti-transgender wing on these issues. Indeed, its only visible supporter on this issue appears to be the prohibitionist Christchurch-based anti-abortion group, Right to Life New Zealand. Meanwhile, having exhausted themselves opposing real marriage equality, Family First is also having an anxiety attack about polygamist eligibility for welfare entitlements, following a case where a violent husband turned out to be a polygamous immigrant. The Social Security Act does not recognise polygamous relationships, but the Family Proceedings Act recognises 'additional' dependent spouses as solo mums. Why aren't polygamist relationships being subjected to investigation and criminal prosecution in this context, asks McCoskrie. Amusingly, he then cites British Columbia's anti-polygamy Bountiful decision from November 2011, which I have always maintained is excellent British Commonwealth case law and which did so on the basis of greater tolerance of family violence within polygamous relationships. I've been maintaining this since 2012/2013 as a primary objection to any hypothetical 'slippery slope' that would 'decriminalise' polygamy in the New Zealand context, as one can see from one of my blog entries cited below from that era. It's good to see McCoskrie is now a convert, but Justice Bauman does make some good points about domestic violence in the context of polygamous relationships. There does need to be investigation in instances where family violence is suspected, but not in a way that would simply end up driving polygamous families underground. There is also child welfare to consider in the context of practical enforcement of any violation of the Social Security Act not covered under the Family Proceedings Act. The Family Proceedings Act also states that as a practical consequence of existing New Zealand provisions against bigamy and polygamy within Sections 205 and 206 of the Crimes Act 1961, 'additional' dependent spouses are treated as solo mothers because their former polygamous relationships are regarded as being dissolved in the New Zealand context, so they require income maintenance and support. But, there's also the possibility of a National/New Zealand First coalition to consider. I think the duty of LGBT New Zealanders is plain at this time. If we are concerned about LGBT and broader social justice issues, then we need to insure that Labour and the Greens have a safe margin over National and New Zealand First combined. There's a gulf of suspicion between our communities and Winston Peters given his voting record that needs to be addressed. He delayed the introduction of marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform in 2005 and this time, the price of his involvement may be demanding postponement of transgender rights. New Zealand First must not be allowed to hold the balance of power after September 23rd. Not Recommended: Conservative Party:http://www.conservativeparty. Family First: Value Your Vote: nz Forum on the Family:http://www.forumonthefamily. "Polygamous Marriage: Is Government bending the rules?" Family First: 17.02.2017 Simon Collins: "Row over refusal to wed gays" New Zealand Herald: 03.02.2017:http://www. article.cfm?c_id=1  

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 10th March 2017 - 2:42pm

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