New Zealand Christian Network is disappointed with the disturbing tactics of some politicians and media who are seeking to marginalise those opposed to their worldview on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment bill, by unfairly branding them as ‘haters’ and ‘extremists’, in what amounts to a serious attack on people’s freedom of belief.
National Director Glyn Carpenter said this morning that in recent weeks at least one Green MP called opponents of the bill ‘haters’ and most recently Labour MP Louisa Wall, in reacting to the surge in Kiwi opposition to the bill as recorded by the New Zealand Herald Digipoll, has taken the step of referring to opponents as spreading fear and misinformation, and implying they are spending vast amounts of money to do so, without presenting any evidence to support those allegations.
“It seems this tactic of ridicule is intended to shut down reasoned debate, and with it freedom of speech, by dismissing anybody who is opposed to their objectives. It amounts to derision and the marginalising of valid opinions and concerns of half of all New Zealanders.
“Reaction from the media takes the position that ‘the majority of New Zealanders support the bill’. But the polls actually show that the number is less than 50%. The real story is that opposition is growing fast while support is plunging.
“Supporters of the bill have referred to scare mongering and propaganda tactics by religious groups. This is not correct. But what clearly stands out is that it is supporters of the bill who have dominated media headlines. For example, Ms Wall gets an article outlining the ‘facts’ about her bill in the New Zealand Herald, but opponents are not afforded that kind of uncontested space.
Mr Carpenter said that the marriage amendment bill will result in serious curtailment of freedom with the Secular State trampling through an area of religious freedom, rights, obligations and responsibility.
“Let’s not forget that the Bill of Rights Act 1990 is clear that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.
“The bill represents a significant threat to those freedoms. It has been clearly stated by law experts that people, including some pastors and marriage celebrants, will not be protected for taking a stand against a redefinition of marriage. But this has been brushed aside in the debate, with journalists and media outlets hesitant or resistant, to explore the real social and religious consequences of the law change.
“The Bill of Rights Act 1990 also states that every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private. So what happens to teachers, for example, when they tell a class room that they do not support any redefinition of marriage. Will they be fired?
“Make no mistake, there is a real risk that pastors and others could end up being prosecuted over this and it will be a sad day for New Zealand if that happens,” Mr Carpenter said.