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Referenda Rabble Rousers

Fri 3 Dec 2004 In: Comment

After the second reading of the Civil Unions Bill, the Christian Right has started to rave about 'citizens initiated referenda' again. Who is at the core of the citizens initiated referenda movement? The answers may disturb some readers. The New Zealand League of Rights is a primary supporter of the citizens initiated referenda movement. It disguises itself as a "Christian service organisation," and had its jackboots parked under the beds of most of New Zealand's Christian Right organisations during the mid-to-late eighties. It runs "Conservative Books," an outlet that distributes "family, morality and ethics" books onsite, which include the work of discredited antigay junk scientists Paul Cameron and Judith Reisman. Reisman is an Orthodox Jew, Cameron attended a Canadian League of Rights get-together a decade ago, at which David Irving was also a platform speaker. Strange bedfellows indeed. At the moment, the League is more focused on promoting opposition to Asian immigration to New Zealand, as well as opposing free-market economics- and support for 'binding citizens initiated referenda.' Binding citizens inititated referenda should never be introduced in this country. They have done far too much damage to LGBT rights within the United States. In the early nineties, Colorado passed a binding citizens initiated referendum against inclusion of lesbians and gay men within state antidiscrimination legislation. In 1996, the US Supreme Court issued Romer v Evans, which noted that states weren't free to rescind antidiscrimination coverage once they had identified particular vulnerable social groups. However, there have been numerous binding citizens initiated referenda against same-sex marriage in the United States since the failure of the antigay 'Federal Marriage Amendment,' and more are expected. In New Zealand, binding citizens initiated referenda are a minority far right obsession. Some readers might have seen letters to the editor from one Steve Barron, leader of the "Voters Voice Action Group." Barron argues that every important 'moral' issue should be decided through binding CIRs, including the Civil Union Bill, adolescent abortion access, immigration [my emphasis], and euthanasia law reform. New Zealand First have made binding CIRs a bottom line for any future coalition participation, and Voters Voice has also been featured in Ian Wishart's silly gutter glossy, Investigate. On its website's "On Target" newsletter, the New Zealand League of Rights asks its members to help distribute Voters Voice binding CIR petitions, and the current "On Target" website includes a letter from Barron. In addition, the Christian Heritage Party also supports binding citizens initiated referenda. (One would be entitled to ask why the latter is involved. In the mid-nineties, a rare Oregon progressive binding CIR decriminalised physician assisted suicide in that state, and was ratified through a second referendum, which has led to Oregon's current status as the only US state that practices regulated access to physician assisted suicide. Why would the Christian Heritage Party favour such a referendum result, or hasn't it done its homework?) While the binding CIR movement is an obvious stealth threat to LGBT rights, the Maxim Institute got egg on its face from its anti-PC forum. They invited one Frank Ellis from Leeds University, believing him to be a simple red-bashing ex-Sovietologist with too much time on his hands. However, Ellis turned out to be an apologist for the British National Party, the largest neofascist organisation in the United Kingdom. The Institute published a copy of one of his publications, but isn't spending all that much time publicising it. Inside, one notes Ellis' favourable comments about the BNP, so it isn't difficult to see why. More embarrassingly, Ellis attacked Don Brash on TVNZ's Breakfast, arguing that the UK Tories would find such advocacy of multiculturalism 'extreme.' Ellis himself has published an essay entitled "Multiculturalism and Marxism" on the white supremacist Canadian Heritage Alliance, American Renaissance and numerous other websites. The British League of Rights footnoted one such article. Leeds University has forbidden Ellis from speaking at any further neofascist conferences, although he obviously saw the Institute as 'useful idiots' for his cause. The Institute probably didn't know about Ellis' other affiliations, although one must ask why that was the case, given that UK Guardian references to Ellis' neofascist activities, and the aforementioned websites are easily discernable from the Internet. Still, Ellis' booklet is not on obvious display, so they do seem to have the decency to be embarrassed by that debacle. So, how 'mainstream' are these organisations? New Zealand First has adopted one League obsession, namely binding CIRs, and "On Target" contains numerous appreciative references to New Zealand First's Treaty-bashing and anti-immigration policies, while the League used to be based in Tauranga. Of course, it is possible that such liaisons are coincidental, and New Zealand First distanced itself from recent anti-Semitic grave defacements in Wellington. Moreover, fundamentalist Christians are a gullible, poorly-educated lot, and are susceptible to odd conspiracy theories about central government and any liberal social reform whatsoever, which may mean that they're fodder for points further right on the political spectrum. Definitely Not Recommended Reading: League of Rights: Oldest New Zealand neofascist, white supremacist and anti-Semitic organisation. Note that while it concentrates attention on anti-Semtic and anti-immigrant racist issues, it is also opposed to women's reproductive freedom and LGBT rights. Its online 'Conservative Books' list carries work from Paul Cameron and Judith Reisman, as well as numerous HIV/AIDS 'casual contact' figures, long since discredited. Voters Voice Action Group: Right-wing advocates of 'binding citizens initiated referenda,' an antigay political initiative that has been used with varying degrees of success against LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws and same-sex marriage in the United States. Books: Frank Ellis: Political Correctness and the Theoretical Struggle: From Marx and Lenin to Marcuse and Foucault: Christchurch: Maxim Institute: 2003. It is not obviously featured on the Maxim Institute website any longer, but the organisation in question has not formally disavowed its content: Maxim Institute: STEVE BARON OF BCIR RESPONDS: Your columnist Craig Young shows a distinct lack of professionalism in his latest article and I'm surprised that any Editor or organisation would allow this article to be published. He seeks to try and paint the binding referendum movement in a bad light because he thinks a referendum on the CU Bill would not support his cause. It would be rather interesting to see if Mr Young would be big enough to accept a successful result in a referendum if he was against it? Mr Young is also very selective when he refers to particular USA State who used BCIR as a protest against gay and lesbian rights knowing full well it could not be enacted due to Federal legislation, yet forgets to point out that in Switzerland there has never been, to my knowledge, any discrimination against a minority. After all we are all part of some minority in some way. The problem with any contentious law being passed without a mandate or popular support is that it alienates citizens. There are many issues like the CU Bill that New Zealanders would like to have a say on rather than leaving it to 120 MPs, even issues like GE and the Privy Council come to mind. And just because voters voted for a particular party does not mean they agree with everything that party wants to do either. Unfortunately we have little power over Parliament apart from once every three years at an election and neither can we remove a List candidate. This is also starting to alienate New Zealanders. I would also point out that the NZ League of Rights is not behind the organisation. It is simply one of a number of organisations and individuals who support the cause in whatever way they feel appropriate. That does not mean supports this organisation or any other. We are not aligned to any organisation, political party or religious group. We seek REAL democracy where New Zealanders get to have a say more than just once every three years at an election on issues that concern them. Considering Craig Young has never even bothered to telephone me and ask my stance on the CU Bill or any other matter, I find it rather insulting that he should assume I am either Left Wing, Right Wing or whatever other label he might like to give me, or infer that I am against this Bill. We have made every effort to stay away from being seen to be supporting or being against any particular cause or issue. We have simply want New Zealanders to be able to have more of a say in the direction of our country when they feel it is important. Best wishes Steve Baron CRAIG YOUNG RESPONDS: I see that Mr Barron doesn't disavow that the New Zealand League of Rights is involved in the overall binding citizens initiated referendum campaign. However, he is being disingenuous about the extent of his contact with that organisation. Below, note the following letter from Barron to the League's On Target publication, available at: "On Target from New Zealand People Power Hi Everyone I'm pleased to announce the launch date for our book 'People Power' which will be 11am Friday 30th July at The Springs, Great North Road, (opp Motions Road   

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 3rd December 2004 - 12:00pm

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