There are concerns about the National Statement on Religious Diversity to be presented at the Asia Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Waitangi.
The Destiny Church have expressed their’s, centering around their desire for New Zealand to have Christianity as a state religion. They will campaign on that with hopefully no more success than their declared (prophesied?) bid to win the 2008 general election. There needs to be more intelligent debate on this question if their campaign gets any traction.
But to me the major concern is the exclusive nature of the formulation, discussion and approval of the document. As Brian Rudman wrote back in February in the NZ Herald:
But if Prime Minister Helen Clark wants a national statement on religious diversity which she can present to an up-coming Asia-Pacific interfaith conference, it does seem a pity that the second-biggest group of believers – the non-believers – were not represented on the drafting panel.
This is no doubt one reason why the document is flawed. Take the glaring example of Clause 3.
The Right to Safety
- Faith communities and their members have a right to safety and security.
This neglects the rights of others to safety and security. Given that one third of New Zealanders do not belong to a “faith” community this clause surely goes against our existing human rights legislation. I am embarrassed that our Prime Minister is presenting such a flawed statement to an international conference.
The whole process raises some questions:
- Are non-religious (non-faith) people not worthy of safety and security?
- What is so special about a “faith community” for it to be treated differently?
- What does a “faith community” mean anyway?
- Why limit religious diversity to only people belonging to a religion?
- Aren’t beliefs such as humanism, rationalism, atheism, agnosticism, non-theism, etc., part of our religious diversity (and their adherents worthy of safety and security)?
- Shouldn’t we be recognising, celebrating and protecting our diversity of belief – not just part of this diversity?