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Graham Capill: A Hypocrite

Mon 11 Apr 2005 In: Features

From 1993-96, then Christian Heritage leader and now self-confessed child molester Graham Capill built a power base as a religious politician, courting the media and labelling homosexuality a threat to children. Undaunted by his 1993 election defeat, Capill pressed on, going head-to-head with the country's first openly gay MP, Chris Carter, on television in March 1994. Perhaps Capill had recognised that the hard-edged, uncompromising nature of the Christian Heritage Party's policies was a major turn-off, as he was already backtracking on some of them. “We've always said that our position is that we don't want to re-criminalise homosexuality, that what we want to do is give people their free choice,” he said. “Now that means that as a minister of religion I want to be able to say that I believe God says homosexuality is sin, and that it's wrong. I want to be able to explain that to people.” He repeatedly denied that repealing homosexual law reform had ever been Christian Heritage Party policy, and objected to the use of the word “discrimination” in the Human Rights Act because it “puts you on the back foot.” He saw the Human Rights Act as a slippery slope to anti-vilification laws, and same-sex marriage, which he outlined in another piece of Tamaki foreshadowing: “...there is a progression. And what we're trying to speak out against is to say ‘Look, enough's enough'.” Capill seemed incredibly upset by Carter's maiden speech to Parliament: “...he actually talked about family life, Capill hissed. “He quoted that this was the international year of the family, and he indicated in it that it's time that included homosexuals as also part of a family... that is in fact an agenda.” As the year progressed, Capill only got nastier. The Hero Festival had just begun, and with it, attempts to capitalise on the popularity of Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The New Zealand Tourism Board saw an opportunity to target gay men and the “pink dollar,” and Capill was up in arms about it. TAKEN TO TASK BY, OF ALL PEOPLE... In an interview with Radio Pacific, the gay community found itself defended from a most unlikely quarter in the form of host Mark Bennett – who in recent years has himself attacked gays and compared homosexuality to paedophilia and necrophilia. Intriguingly, ten years ago, he stuck up for the gay community in what perhaps is a telling indication of shift in some media to the moral right. Bennett questioned whether Capill was just taking a chance to indulge in gay-bashing. Capill, of course, denied it. “I'd like to think we have more principles that what we see here with the Tourism Board who are planning to bring Australian homosexuals to New Zealand... I think that it's a very sad day when we're prepared to pursue revenue by itself, regardless of moral values in a sense. Would we say that it's right to perhaps target the Mafia over here because they're going to bring big bucks to New Zealand?” “Rubbish,” interjected Bennett. “You can't lump the gays as a sector in with the Mafia, can you?” But Capill didn't relent, either with Bennett or in the rest of the media, calling for government intervention to stop gays getting into the country and to outlaw pride parades. Both the Hero Parade and gay tourism were things that “New Zealanders will find totally unacceptable and will be disgusted about... The last thing this country needs is to attract the immoral practices of homosexuals and lesbians. It is time the Government stepped in and stated blatantly that we don't want to attract these sort of tourists, no matter how much money they may bring into the country. They engage in practices that threaten the health of our citizens with diseases such as HIV and AIDS...” So concerned was Capill for the physical and moral health of our country that he and his Christian Heritage Party cohorts began monitoring the gay media, whom he attempted to prosecute under blasphemy laws (still an offence to this day under the Crimes Act) over an ad for a gay dance party which ran in gay newspaper Man To Man, now known as Express. The party in question was called “Res-erection”, and was scheduled for Easter Weekend 1994. The advertisement featured a naked, winged man below the words “Rise to the Occasion.” In addition to filing a police complaint relating to indecent publications and blasphemy, Capill complained to the Advertising Standards Authority and publicly called for the Government to cut funding to the AIDS Foundation, one of the charities slated for a share of the party's profits. In the media, the gay community again found support from an unlikely (in retrospect) quarter in the form of conservative Newstalk ZB host Larry Williams. Williams interviewed Capill over the ad and staked out a fiercely adversarial approach toward the Christian Heritage Party leader, far more agressively than any media's treatment of Destiny's Brian Tamaki over the last year. “We are deeply offended by the advert at the end of the latest edition of ‘Man To Man', which portrays Christ after the resurrection... and it's inviting homosexuals to come to a party to celebrate the resurrection,” said Capill. “The centre of Easter for many is the remembrance of Christ's death and resurrection and it's blasphemous to portray Christ in an advert within the context of a homosexual party.” “Yes, but this is not Iran is it?” Williams replied. “I mean, this is a democracy. What complaints have you had other than yourself?” “Oh well, anybody that has seen it is deeply shocked by it and can't believe that we can have this sort of advert going on when we've just passed legislation that says we shouldn't discriminate against religion,” Capill answered. “How many complaints have you had?” Williams insisted. “Well we don't collect complaints as a party but there's many people that are involved in the party that are Christians that are offended by it.” “And that subscribe to ‘Man To Man'?” Williams suggested. Capill said that whether Christians actually saw the advertisement or not was beside the point. “The fact is here we have a community that has said that they just want equality on sexuality, but they're obviously wanting something more than that because they're attempting to attack other people's religion now... it certainly is rude and crude, and I believe it will bring the judgement of God upon the country if we don't address it.” He repeated the judgement sentiment in an interview with, of all newspapers, ‘Man To Man': “God does judge nations,” he said. “I don't think it's any coincidence that in California we've had a series of earthquakes, floods and fires...it [the ad] strikes at the heart of Christianity. Christ encapsulates purity, morality and goodness.” He also repeated calls for AIDS Foundation funding to be cut, falsely alleging that the Foundation was sponsoring the event, and that they were too involved with events which encouraged gay sex. “The AIDS Foundation has no right to misuse public revenue to sponsor celebrations of sexually perverted practices.” The complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about the advertisement were upheld. Although the Board dismissed suggestions that the naked figure was intended to be Christ, they said overall the ad “amounted to a gratuitous mockery of Easter.” Although Capill denied repeatedly that he was targeting gays, ads for a heterosexual dance party held the same weekend and called “The Second Coming” were completely ignored by Capill. MARY, CHITTY AND MARIA As the 1996 election approached, Capill continued to target gays in the media, shifting his attention to television's popular night-time soap “Shortland Street” and its inclusion of gay characters, suggesting that the programme was a contributing cause to the decline of society. Capill said he didn't allow his children to watch “Shortland Street,” but that he often slipped away to another television set in order to evaluate it. “It focuses on very sad events too frequently... for instance on abortion, on homosexuality, on incest – those sorts of things are happening in society but they're not the best things to be focussing on,” he told National Radio's “Checkpoint”. “We're offering a challenge to TVNZ to re-evaluate what they're screening and saying, look, the great popular movies of the past have been programmes like ‘The Sound Of Music' and ‘ET' and ‘Mary Poppins.' Those are the ones which the families have enjoyed, why can't we have similar sort of programmes put on by TVNZ?” he asked in a second appearance on National Radio, this time on “Morning Report”. “So you're suggesting a diet of ‘Mary Poppins', ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', and ‘The Sound Of Music' for New Zealand families in 1995?” asked host Mike Hosking. “Well I certainly think we couldn't do much worse,” Capill answered. “If we could focus the television on less violent programmes, on programmes that portray decent family life, we would be conveying a message to the next generation that there is such a thing as marriage, that there is such a thing as commitment and love and those are the values on which a strong society is built.” Capill was also watching closely when gay news programme “Express Report” hit New Zealand screens in 1996. He monitored the first episode of the show to see if it transgressed any broadcasting codes, and when it didn't he still issued a press release, saying that the programme's mere existence was a potential breach of broadcasting requirements. “While tonight's programme may not have breached any specific codes of practice, that does not mean it won't in the future,” Capill wrote. “We are appalled that such a programme would even be considered by television programmers. Homosexuals represent less than 2% of the population. They engage in unhealthy and immoral sexual activities that propagate sexually transmitted diseases. Television, in choosing to broadcast such programmes, is trying to push homosexuality into mainstream thinking.” “Express Report” eventually became “Queer Nation”, the world's longest-running GLBT television programme. The show, which finished last year, was never considered mainstream, always screening in slots 11pm or later. Capill said at the time his party would continue to monitor the show “to ensure that the Broadcasting Codes are adhered to” and called on people to flood TVNZ with complaints about it. Former producer Andrew Whiteside says the show never ended up having any BSA complaints upheld against it across its nine-year run, and the few formal complaints that were made never objected to the show on moral or religious grounds. Ironically, Capill's press release about Express Report's first episode bemoaned that it didn't “uphold to the impartiality required of television broadcasting” – despite the fact he was the show's first guest. THE GATHERING DARK CLOUDS OF EVIL As the Hero Parade drew ever-increasing crowds – mostly heterosexual – in Auckland, it became an annual target for Capill. In 1995 he said it sought to “glorify perverted and degrading behaviour,” and continued to express his belief that God's wrath would be felt upon the country if we continued to forget that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” In fact, Capill even suggested God was already a little ticked off with Aucklanders. “The Bible is clear that ‘God will not be mocked. What a man sows, that he will also reap' (Gal 6:7). The rest of the Bible demonstrates that this principle is extended to cities and nations,” he wrote in Christian newspaper Challenge Weekly. “Maybe Auckland ought to reflect on the drought it experienced this last year.” Capill told Radio Pacific that he acknowledged gays and lesbians were part of the community, but that it needed to be stressed at the same time that we weren't normal. “We're also facing a real problem with AIDS,” he said, “and if we want to really address that subject seriously then we shouldn't encourage what has been shown to actually raise the level of AIDS, this sort of behaviour.” Notwithstanding the fact that lesbians have always been the least at-risk group for AIDS, far below heterosexuals even, 1995 saw the lowest number of HIV infections among gay men in New Zealand since 1986. But Capill never allowed facts to get in the way of righteousness. In fact, in yet another example of Destiny foreshadowing, his party even organised a “Rally for Righteousness” in Wellington's Civic Square to protest what the Christian Heritage Party labelled an “exhibition of pornography” at the Wellington City Art Gallery. In reality, it was merely a collection of nudes from renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. So why did the Christian Heritage Party feel it necessary to hold an “Enough is Enough”-style rally to protest it? Robin Corner, chairman of the party's Wellington Electorates Committee, outlined the reasons why in an invitation to supporters in November 1995: “Mapplethorpe was a promiscuous homosexual who indulged in extremely objectionable and depraved sexual practices, and photographed these activities in minute detail,” Corner wrote. “One lady told me that she perceived it to be like a ‘dark cloud of evil' descending on Wellington. Mapplethorpe is known to have dabbled in Satanism; is it possible we are dealing with ‘spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places' here?” The dark cloud of evil was everywhere in the world of Capill, except in his own backyard, and those forces were hell-bent on destroying the “sanctity of family,” he told the Dominion in July 1995. This time, those forces came in the form of the Young Nats – the youth wing of the National Party. He encountered these political activists of the next generation advocating for, amongst other things, legal prostitution and an abolition of restrictions on shop trading hours. Capill was appalled. “Perhaps [the Young Nats] should observe that with every ‘right' declared, there is a corresponding loss of freedom for someone else,” he said. That perceived “loss of freedom” has also been the catch-cry of the fundamentalist movement to block legal recognition of same-sex couples. Like his modern-day counterparts, Capill was unclear on the specifics of what would be taken away from others by same-sex marriage, other than to say it would be bad for children. “You shouldn't promote those lifestyles. We don't believe they're right,” he said in yet another interview, this time with Wellington's 2ZB. “We believe that they are damaging especially to children that will get caught up... I've spoken out against ‘Express Report', the TV programme, just last week and it's amazing how many people say, ‘good on you, it's time to make a stand against that sort of thing.'” The rest of the country didn't agree. Despite an alliance with the Christian Democrats, Capill failed to get elected to Parliament in the 1996 election, although they came dangerously close to the 5% threshold. Capill's coalition fell apart after that and it was the closest he ever got to the House of Representatives – but a third consecutive electoral defeat still wasn't enough to silence him... Chris Banks - 11th April 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 11th April 2005 - 12:00pm

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