Don’t encourage them!

Some anarchically-inclined friends of mine use to say that about general elections. “Don’t vote for politicians – it only encourages them.” It’s not usually a convincing argument for me – but when it comes to this “child discipline” referendum I think it is the only sensible advice.family-fist

So, New Zealanders can vote from the end of next month on the proposition: “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Trouble is we are being told that the way we vote here should be interpreted as support for legislation which we don’t necessarily support. For example, many people would, to be honest, answer “no”, while at the same time accepting the current law. (That’s my position). However, the activists who initiated the referendum petition, and who are making so much noise at the moment, would claim my “no” vote supported return of the section 59 legislation which enabled child beaters to claim child discipline as a defence when charged with assault. That’s not something I want.

This referendum question is along the lines of “When are you going to stop beating your wife?”

A silly question

This time I think practically all the politicians have got it right. It’s a silly referendum question. There is no clarity about how one should vote. Most politicians seem to be saying they won’t vote in this referendum – which tells you something. And the public appears to endorse that – only 18% in a recent poll supported the referendum proceeding.

In fact, I think the public are convinced by their argument that this particular referendum has brought the whole idea of citizen initiated referenda into question. So it seem inevitable that there will shortly be legislation to change referenda so that ideologically and religiously -motivated people can’t manipulate the system with loaded referenda questions.

And this is the problem – manipulation of the system (and attempted manipulation of the public) by narrow minority groups for their own ideological ends. This tactic was quite successful during the initial debate on the legislation changes. Many innocent parents were naturally concerned that the changes could make some of their parenting illegal. But that concern has largely disappeared.

The fact that legislation was amended to take these concerns into account, this lead to almost unanimous support in parliamentary vote, makes the whole referendum redundant. It is even more redundant because the NZ Parliament will, anyway, review how the law has worked in practice. And let’s face it, referendum supporters are really at a loss when asked for examples of the law being applied inappropriately by police or other state authorities.

Claims to moral authority discredited

And the ideological orientation of those currently promoting the referendum also discredit it. Typical is the blog NZ Christian News. It unashamedly claims to be “sponsored by the Elusive Brethren and right-wing American fundamentalists.” It’s pronouncements are usually restricted to republished anti-science and climate change denying articles from US creationist web sites. But recently it has a real flurry of locally produced articles – some of then even written by the site’s anonymous administrator (admin) which is very unusual. Other conservative NZ Christian blogs have also been promoting the referendum.

I would have thought this would be the kiss of death. One of the reasons Christianity has lost so much support over recent years has been because of the way some its adherents behave towards children. We have become used to news reports of sexual and physical abuse of children by Christian leaders – protestant as well as Catholic. Now, I am the last person to tar all Christians with the same brush (some of my best friends are Christian). But these activities, and the apparent reluctance of many church authorities to face up to the problems and protect the interest of the children concerned, does undermine any claim to moral authority in this area.

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12 responses to “Don’t encourage them!

  1. Ken your cartoon is slanderous. It accuses people of support for child abuse who simply believe that a smack is not child abuse and shouldn’t be criminalised.

    Child abusers may have been able to ‘claim’ a defence of reasonable force but almost none succeeded in making that claim. People can claim all sorts of things, what matters is the court’s ability to separate bogus claims from facts and the court almost always got it right.

    Reports of abusers getting off on the basis of a reasonable force defence are, politely put, massive exaggerations; truthfully put, outright lies.

    Go to a law library, look up all 34 cases where accuseds claimed a defence of reasonable force under the old s59 and see for yourself how many succeeded. Your confidence in the media and reports claimed by politicians is astounding given your science background. Check the primary sources Ken.

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  2. I guess cartoons, to be effective, have to be provocative – and this certainly is. I don’t think my post in any way implies that a light smack is necessarily child abuse. Perhaps you are too close to the campaigning on this issue to read my points clearly.

    However, the fact remains that many people who have abused children hide behind justifications like this. I remember as a young child being psychologically terrorised by someone who would have claimed that she was just concerned with my moral (and religious) upbringing. We have so many examples now of conservative Christians who have sexually, psychologically and physically abused children in their charge. This has been a huge scandal in the Catholic church and we can all think of examples from some of the protestant sects. Seen in the light, for examples, of recent disclosures about the treatment of children in Ireland, I actually think there is an important message in that cartoon.

    For these reasons, I can’t help see a lot of the activism of conservative Christians on this issue as hypocritical.

    In the end my empathy is with the children.

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  3. “Elusive Brethren”?, I know they’re insular but are they really elusive?

    I suspect we’re roughly on the same page with this one, I was slightly concerned when the law came in (not having children myself). So long as the law is reviewed and not contributing to more harm than good that’s the best I can ask for.

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  4. “However, the fact remains that many people who have abused children hide behind justifications like this.”

    Just exactly what does this fact proves? it is also fact that many people who have committed murder hide behind ridiculous justifications such as “the devil made me do it!!”. The truth is, most of those claims were unsuccessful. So Ken, please tell us how many court cases that you know of where a child abuser was justified by using the “child discipline” defence?

    About the child abuse scandal in the Church: wow, you did a nice job at tarring all Christians with the same brush indeed. Can the actions of a church, which I have no influence in whatsoever, render my view as hypocritical?

    Using your fallacious logic, I’ll propose this argument: Pedophilia is a crime of the Anglo-saxon group (majority of cases are committed by them, clerics or atheists alike). The Anglo-saxon, as a group, has been reluctant to face the problem. Therefore, it is hypocritical for Ken (if he is an Anglo-saxon) to comment anything on child abuse.

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  5. Heraclides

    I don’t like this referendum, it’s hazy phrasing hardly helps either. One thing that would help me, is to know how it’s counted. (Still haven’t found time to read it or do a search!) Is it counted by a majority over the nation, or a majority over those that vote?

    InARush: nice try at trolling, or at least that’s my take on your post. I should let Ken speak for himself, but it’s clear to me that he is drawing a line between the leadership of those organisations that apparently supposed this bill & referendum and that the leadership of the same (class of) organisations haven’t done well facing child abuse issues within the organisations they lead. That is about the leadership of those organisations, not the followers, as your post makes out. (In one way it does impact on the followers: they ought to be pushing their leadership to do the right thing, etc.)

    By the way, I vaguely recall that there are “black” tribes where (quite serious) child abuse is routine beyond anything in Western society, to the point that while “disliked” it was an established part of their culture.

    In any event you’ve tried to link peadophillia and child abuse, inducing a different form of fallacy yourself 😉 A sort of synecdochical argument where the part is to imply the whole, but this doesn’t work if the part has specific characteristics not necessarily found in all items from the whole as in your case.

    (You can tell I’m bored, right?)

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  6. InARush, I think you have reacted emotively to my post and consequently have interpreted my comments according to your emotional prejudice rather than what I actually. wrote.

    For example – I specifically said “I am the last person to tar all Christians with the same brush.” I clearly was not labelling all Christians.

    But the fact remains that some Christians, and Christian organisations, have been guilty of child abuse. This is something you have to confront. Because the public see the position of such conservative Christians as hypocritical for this reason.

    Beyond this, of course, my point is that the whole referendum is pointless. It’s confusing. There will probably be a very low turnout if it goes ahead. The government (and all parties in parliament) will ignore the result. The current legislation will be reviewed to check for any problems with its application in practice by Police and other state authorities.

    We seem to have a very good situation with respect to the law. Why should we listen to Christian conservatives who have their own ideological/religious agenda.

    There are deeper problems of how we treat children which the law can’t solve. We should be attempting to understand why some parents, some religious organisations, some state institutions, have been so cruel to children. Why did (does) the Catholic church behave in the way revealed by the Irish inquiry? Why do they always try to cover up and avoid the issue? Why do they attempt to put the blame back on their accusers?

    And the problem for Christianity is wider than the Catholic Church – as we in NZ well know.

    It’s no good attempting sweep this under the carpet and accuse people who raise the issue of “tarring all Christians.”

    Ever heard of the “Emperor’s new clothes?”

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  7. Heraclides:

    Read the second to last paragraph again. It seems that Ken is criticizing the followers who are supporting the referendum, not just the leadership alone. The last paragraph seems to imply that the “ideological orientation” of the followers is discredited because of the actions, or lack of actions, of the church’s leadership. Don’t get me wrong, maybe I’m just putting words into Ken’s mouth. I’d like Ken to clarify the last two paragraphs. To me, it seems that he is criticizing both the leadership AND followers.

    Yes, I have no problem believing that pedophiles can come from any tribes and ethnic group. Don’t take my anglo-sax theory too seriously. What my argument tries to point out is the sort of Guilt by Association fallacy as seen in his last 2 paragraphs. Again, maybe I’m wrong and would like to see him clarify this.

    About the synecdochical argument, good catch! let me rephrase the conclusion: Therefore, it is hypocritical for Ken to comment on the crimes of pedophiles. The fallacious logic of my argument still correlates somewhat with Ken’s.

    Ken:

    Yes, you specifically said that you don’t want to tar all Christians with the same brush. But then you seem to suggest that the ideology of all Christians who support the referendum is discredited because of the actions of some Christians.

    As for the usefulness of the referendum, I agree with you to a certain degree. It’s just the last 2 paragraphs that I have difficulties in getting my head around.

    “Why should we listen to Christian conservatives who have their own ideological/religious agenda.”

    I personally know a few non-religious Asian parents and quite a number of Hindu parents who find the anti-smacking bill appalling. Maybe its your “emotional prejudice” against Christianity that compels you to generalize everyone supporting the referendum as being a conservative Christian, myself included 😉

    “We seem to have a very good situation with respect to the law.”

    This statement was also true before the anti-smacking bill was passed. This leads me to a question raised earlier in the previous posts (which you’ve ignored): how many court cases that you know of where a child abuser was justified by using the “child discipline” defence?

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  8. InARush – that 2nd to last para dealt with the NZ Christian News blog – an extreme and naive blog. It didn’t refer to these vague “followers.”

    If your think that the situation before the law change was good then you have to come to grips with the fact that almost all members of parliament disagree. They saw the need for change and did so.

    And, no, I don’t know the number of times people used the section 59 defence in child abuse cases. I could do the research – but isn’t that pointless now? The issue is no longer that but the referendum – which you seem to agree (“to a certain degree”) is pointless. You, presumably, agree with me that our current situation is a reasonable – especially as the application of the current law is to be reviewed.

    I apologise for appearing to single out Christian extremists – non-religious, Asian and Hindu extremists are just as bad. However, the fact remains that the forces driving this referendum at the moment (I don’t refer to the large numbers of innocent, concerned, parents who were hoodwinked into signing the petition) are Christian extremists, like the anonymous people behind NZ Christian News.

    Many (if not most) honest Christians actually support the current legislation. Some of the campaigned for the law change. I just wish more of them would stand up against those small numbers of Christians and Christian organisations who give their beliefs a bad name. That includes the extremists pushing the referendum, as well as those Catholic and protestant people who have been guilty of the sexual, psychological and physical abuse of children under their care – and the organisations (such as the Catholic and some other churches) who have ignored, condoned, justified or attempted to cover up that abuse.

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  9. Read the second to last paragraph again.

    Please re-read it yourself. Ken explicitly refers to ‘leaders’ and ‘authorities’. I can see how someone reading in a rush might misread it (by choosing to have the reference to ‘Christians’ “rule over” is reference to ‘leaders’ and ‘authorities’).

    Either way you look at it, Ken was not referring to all followers in the manner your original comment implies.

    What my argument tries to point out is the sort of Guilt by Association fallacy […]

    You seem to be the only one making it out to be associated with “all followers”. Ken doesn’t and neither did I on reading it independently.

    The fallacious logic of my argument still correlates somewhat with Ken’s.

    Nope, for the reason I just pointed out. It all rests on you making out he is referring to “all followers”.

    Food for thought: there is a tendency among a number of religious followers, most notably Christians, to “look for” “evidence” of their being “oppressed”. If you “look” for things like that you will “find” them in places it’s not happening. In a funny way it occurs to me that it’s a Jewish oppression syndrome of sorts extended out to other areas of Christianity.

    Either way, it can come across as trying to create divisions (and hence an “opposition” to rally against) by trying to “find” things to be offended about. I sometimes feel this is an intentional ploy by Christian leaders. It’s an easy strategy to “bind” people: have them rally against a “common enemy”. It’s not help by this concept—as far as I understand—being rather deeply embedded into Christianity.

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  10. Ken:

    “that 2nd to last para dealt with the NZ Christian News blog – an extreme and naive blog. It didn’t refer to these vague “followers.”

    Ok that is somewhat clear enough for me. Thank you.

    “If your think that the situation before the law change was good then you have to come to grips with the fact that almost all members of parliament disagree.”

    I don’t take every politician’s opinions as gospel. Shouldn’t your “anarchically-inclined friends” warn you about this? 😉 I want to see data and facts, not what the politicians think. Hence, I asked how many child abusers has successfully appealed to section 59 for defense. It was specifically directed at this statement of yours:

    “However, the fact remains that many people who have abused children hide behind justifications like this.”

    I believe that, practically, the referendum could be useless, just as the anti-smacking bill was useless. But having said that, I believe people should have a say in supporting the referendum (irregardless of their religious persuasion). If you want my opinion, I’d say this is all just a political stunt orchestrated by the National Party and Co. to appease their extreme and naive christian supporters (I’m not saying all referendum supporters are such, I too support the referendum but for different reasons). Ok, now I think I have drawn fire from all directions so lets just leave it at that.

    Heraclides:

    I suggest you read the second-to-last paragraph. Ken was referring to the conservative Christians bloggers. As far as I know, some of those bloggers are not church leaders and hence I said Ken’s criticism is not directed at the leaders alone. So this statement of yours is perhaps false:

    “That is about the leadership of those organisations, not the followers, as your post makes out.”

    Ken is criticizing both the church’s leadership and some followers (the so called “extreme and naive” Christians). My mistake was to interpret Ken as criticizing all followers.

    “Nope, for the reason I just pointed out. It all rests on you making out he is referring to “all followers”.”

    Yes, my mistake for interpreting Ken’s argument as referring to all Christians. Regardless, the fallacious logic still exist in Ken’s argument (hence I specifically said a sort of Guilt by association fallacy). The view of a Christian may be “discredited” because of his/her extreme or naive ideology. However, you cannot “discredit” the “ideological orientation” of certain Christians (no matter how absurd it is) just by appealing to the actions of some other Christians/leaders alone (which Ken’s last 2 paragraphs appears to have done). So unless those bloggers were involved in child abuse and its cover-up (which I doubt), then the argument is fallacious.

    “Food for thought:…”

    Sorry, no thanks. Maybe Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Supreme leaders might be interested in hearing your conspiracy theory but certainly not I. Good job as generalizing Christians and religious followers though.

    I could easily suggest that Atheists (like Richard Dawkins and his pals) are also “looking” for “evidence” of them being “oppressed” and that they are exhibiting the “Jewish oppression syndrome”. However, I won’t do this as I’m smart enough not to generalize and stereotype atheists (or any group, be it their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc). I’m not going to stoop down to your level.

    Remember friend, generalizing and stereotyping is the first step/sign of bigotry 😉 Nevertheless, it was nice chatting to you, ciao.

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  11. Heraclides

    Ken is criticizing both the church’s leadership As I see it, you’re mixing different parts of Ken’s article that talk about different things. The only part of his article that I can see that links sexual misconduct/abuse with religious people is the last paragraph. That paragraph refers to the church leaders. (I can see how others might read it to also include some followers, but it’s not how it reads to me.) The reference to bloggers in the previous paragraph is to bloggers supporting the referendum (i.e. a different thing).

    Ken is criticizing both the church’s leadership and some followers (the so called “extreme and naive” Christians). […]

    Yes, but for different things, see above. You objected about linking followers to paedophilia, child abuse, etc.: I replied to that, not about linking followers to supporting the referendum.

    Regardless, the fallacious logic […] See above.

    Sorry, no thanks. […]

    Fine, you don’t have to learn from other’s well-intended thoughts, but you might be the loser in the long run 😉

    Bit of a mistake to choose Dawkins as an example in my opinion. If you honestly looking at Dawkins et al‘s presentations, etc., I think you’ll find his main objections are to the irrational/illogical beliefs of the religious, not complaining about any actions taken against him. I think you’ll also find that when he does point out things done to him by religious people, it’s rarely as a complaint, but rather to hold it up for others to see how silly the action was. If anything my impression is that Dawkins, at least publicly, welcomes the silly actions as they show up the religious people involved as idiots. (And, let’s face it, some of the things done against Dawkins are stunningly stupid.)

    Remember friend, generalizing and stereotyping is the first step/sign of bigotry

    How am I supposed to read this, what’s the tone? An arrogant last minute pot-shot and then you run away? If so, at least I picked you as a troll from the onset 🙂

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  12. Pingback: That ‘no’ vote « Open Parachute

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