NZCN oral submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill

NZCN oral submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill

Dr Stuart Lange presents his oral submission on behalf of NZ Christian Network to the Justice Select Committee.

NZ Christian Network’s submission was also highlighted on Radio New Zealand’s Midday News on 15 September.

 

 

NZCN oral submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill

NZCN’s submission on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill

Submission from the NEW ZEALAND CHRISTIAN NETWORK on the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill, including a suggested additional clause

What we can agree with in the Bill:

  1. The promotion of “respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”.
  2. Affirming “the dignity of all people”, and upholding “the human rights of all New Zealanders, including rainbow New Zealanders, to live free from discrimination and harm”.
  3. A ban on “therapies”, “treatments”, and “conversion practices” for LGBT people which are “harmful”.

The values and practices of most Christian churches:

  1. We disavow any pastoral or counselling practices with regard to gay or transgender people (or anyone else) that are uninvited, coercive, unloving, harsh, or disrespecting of people’s freedoms.
  2. We agree that pastoral counselling and interaction should always be compassionate, gentle, and respectful of everyone’s personal worth, dignity, and freewill.

The core element of this submission is our proposal that the Bill be amended with an additional clause in Section 5 (2):

[in this Act, conversion practice does not include— ]

(g) respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender, and advice, guidance, prayer, or support given to anyone by anyone else including parents, family members, friends, counsellors, religious leaders, or health professionals, when such advice or support is requested, and is respectful and non-coercive”.

We believe such a clause would give effect to the Bill’s second stated purpose (“respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”), and would address the majority of concerns being expressed about the Bill.

Our reasons for proposing this additional clause 5 (2) (g)

  1. The proposed additional clause would not detract in any way from the first of the two stated purposes of the Bill, i.e. “prevent harm caused by conversion practices” [Part 1, 3 (a)]
  1. The Bill would still clearly criminalise any “harmful” practice, “performed with the intention of changing or suppressing the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” [5 (1) (b)].
  2. But, outside of any such harmful practices, the proposed amendment would clarify that “respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender” and expressions of opinion, advice, and support would not be criminalised, if “requested”, “respectful” and “non-coercive”.
  1. The proposed additional clause would give effect to the second of the two stated purposes of the Bill i.e. [Part 1, 3 (b)] “promote respectful and open discussions regarding sexuality and gender”
  1. There appears to be nothing in the Bill as currently worded that would address or facilitate that stated purpose of the Bill.
  2. Instead, we believe the Bill as currently worded and without our proposed amendment would have the effect indicated in Crown Law’s advice to the Attorney General: “a significant limitation on freedom of expression” and “a potential chilling effect on legitimate expressions of opinion within families/whānau about sexuality and gender”. That “chilling effect” would also extend to every other societal context.
  3. The Bill of Rights (Clause 14) is also clearly relevant: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form”.
  1. The proposed additional clause would allay the considerable public concern about the Bill interfering with the rights and responsibilities of parents to give guidance and counsel to their children.
  1. Most parents know their children very well, and are eager to do whatever is best for them.
  2. Most parents are also sensitive about the State inappropriately infringing on their own rights and responsibilities as parents.
  3. The proposed amendment would help clarify what is legal and what is not, and prevent the law having an inappropriately restrictive effect on what Crown Law refers to as “legitimate expressions of opinion within families/whānau about sexuality and gender”.
  1. The proposed additional clause would address legitimate concerns that the Bill would deny people the freedom to seek and receive whatever advice or support they themselves desire.
  1. Sexuality and gender identity are often less than clear-cut matters, and choices can be difficult. In reality some people do sometimes wish to change the way they live or self-identify. Movement can occur in all directions: from heterosexual to homosexual or bi-sexual (and vice versa), or from male gender identity to female gender identify (and vice versa).
  2. Those exploring any such change may often seek input or assistance from those around them or from professionals (including counsellors, mental health practitioners, religious leaders, youth workers), and should have the freedom to seek advice or support from anyone they choose, with all options open for discussion and exploration, providing that advice is respectful and non-coercive.
  3. Without this proposed amendment, it is likely that those (professionals or otherwise) who could offer appropriate listening, discussion and support to those who request such help would be very wary of saying anything, out of fear they could be criminalised for any words or actions which could possibly be construed as “intended to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”. The law would thus prevent some people from receiving the support they themselves want.
  1. The proposed additional clause would also address concerns that the Bill would inappropriately compromise religious freedoms.
  1. We believe the church should certainly repudiate or avoid any pastoral practice which is coercive, disrespectful, or harmful, and we must emphasise that our point here is not to make space in any way for such practices.
  2. The New Zealand Bill of Rights guarantees:

13 “Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference”
14 “Freedom of expression:  Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form,”
15 “Manifestation of religion and belief: 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”

  1. On the other hand, the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill allows only for “the expression only of a religious principle or belief made to an individual that is not intended to change or suppress the individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”.
  2. This is too narrow a freedom that is being permitted by this Bill. Religious groups do not state their doctrinal beliefs in isolation from life and practice, but legitimately commend them as a basis for life. Doctrine divorced from life is deeply inconsistent with Christian “observance” and “practice” as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, and the State should avoid any undue interference in such matters.
  3. Our concern is simply about the likely constricting effect of this Bill on legitimate and un-harmful religious practices, i.e. the appropriate exercise of respectful pastoral advice, counselling, and prayer in church contexts.
  4. Caution about those effects was expressed by Crown Law, which noted that “the broad definition of those [conversion] practices creates the risk that it could extend further, to the exchange of thoughts or opinions about sexuality and gender that occur within the family/whānau or religious groups that do warrant protection and where the limitation could not easily be justified”, and that “There is no doubt that as expressed the prohibition will extend to activities and communications that occur within families and within religious groupings”.
  5. We are particularly disturbed that the State could take any interest in the content of private pastoral discussions and prayer. We would consider that an inappropriate breach of the Bill of Rights clause 15, which asserts “Manifestation of religion and belief: 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”.
  6. The adoption of the amendment we propose would likewise largely address our concerns in the area of religious freedom.

Thank you very much for your work, and for carefully considering this submission.

Rev Dr Stuart Lange (National Director), on behalf of the New Zealand Christian Network

The New Zealand Christian Network is a significant inter-church organisation with member churches, individuals, and Christian organisations from a very wide range of church affiliations. It represents a moderate, orthodox Christian perspective. NZCN’s National Director is also a member of the Executive of the National Church Leaders Aotearoa New Zealand (NCLANZ).

Submissions close Wednesday 8 September 2021

The Select Committee’s online submission form takes you through the simple steps, and the only part that you really have to take time to consider is the important section on why you oppose the bill as it currently stands, and whether you want to make an oral submission. If you prefer, you can upload your submission if you’ve already done it as a document or PDF.

NZCN | News 1 May

NZCN | News 1 May

Dear Friend,

What are we learning (or re-learning) from this current COVID-19 crisis?

  • That our lives are not as safe or as predictable as we presume to think
  • That our only enduring anchor and hope is God
  • That crises can usefully prompt us to reflect
  • That basic human relationships of marriage, family and friendship really matter
  • That the church also matters, both for Christ’s message and the community of his people
  • That both work and rest are important (many of us rush around too much, and some time-out at home is good for us)
  • That leadership makes a difference, and that Christians remain called to pray for those in authority
  • That God is able to work for good in all circumstances
  • That many churches have rediscovered basic pastoral care
  • That the core tasks of the church do not depend on glitzy performances and outstanding facilities, but on faith, hope, love, the Gospel, the word,
  • Prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit
  • That many in the church have been moved by this crisis to a greater prayerfulness
  • That on-line church can reach a lot of previously unreached people
  • That many people seem to have greater openness to God in this time

Pray As One NZ

The wonderful ZOOM-based nation-wide prayer gatherings which began last month, and which many hundreds of people participated in, begin again this Monday night, with a weekly 8.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. prayer gathering.

The New Zealand Christian Network team were heavily involved in the formation of the Pray As one NZ prayer movement, and have been very pleased to be associated with it. A wider advisory group (including representatives of other prayer networks) will continue and has accepted NZCN’s offer to take overall responsibility for Pray As One NZ.

NZCN|News – Easter

NZCN|News – Easter

Easter points us to the bigger picture

There is no denying the current significant health and economic threats to societies all around the world, especially in many less well-resourced nations. In the past, societies and churches have many times suffered catastrophes, through war, famine, natural disasters, plagues, and persecution. The season of Easter, though, is a great time to recall and celebrate Christ’s redeeming death and life-giving resurrection.

These Easter events usefully remind us of a bigger, more enduring picture than COVID-19. That God remains our everlasting Rock. That on the Cross, God in Christ has demonstrated his great love for us, and made possible our salvation. That God has granted his Spirit to all who believe. That God is always watching over us. That one day God will restore his broken creation, and make all things new.  May God inspire us afresh as we focus on him, this coming weekend – and beyond.

 

It has been so very encouraging for the New Zealand Christian Network to be very closely involved in the new Pray As One NZ initiative, which began last Tuesday (1 April) with a 12-hour national on-line day of prayer for New Zealand and a special one-hour national prayer and worship service live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook followed by eight consecutive prayer sessions, from 8.00 to 9.00 pm.

What has been so pleasing is the gathering of hundreds of Christian believers from every corner of New Zealand, and from many different church denominations and flavours, and the thousands of faithful, passionate prayers for Aotearoa New Zealand. On average, there have been 140 people online at any one time. The two overarching themes have been the COVID-19 crisis and the spiritual health and wellbeing of New Zealand.

This series of prayer gatherings end tonight (Thursday 9 April, 8.00 pm). It is not too late to participate. If you would like to join, visit Pray As One NZ for details. Almost certainly, Pray as One prayer gatherings will resume on some basis, sometime after Easter.
Watch this space…

Which is the deeper problem: the spiritual blindness and sins of secular New Zealand society as a whole, or the blind spots and spiritual listlessness of the New Zealand church?

I posed this question during devotions in Pray As One NZ earlier this week, before reading that magnificent prayer of repentance, Psalm 51.

Read the transcript here >

NZCN|News – 28 March

NZCN|News – 28 March

PRAYING AS ONE FOR NEW ZEALAND

These are unprecedented times for Aotearoa, and indeed for the world. More than ever we need Christian believers to unite in prayer!

New Zealand Christian Network is delighted to announce that it has been able to work with a number of groups (NZCN, Move NZ, Rhema Broadcasting, Intercessors for NZ, Missions Interlink, and the World Evangelical Alliance) to pull together Pray As One NZ, a 9-day initiative intended to unite Christians all over NZ in prayer and fasting for our nation. We are inviting leaders from all over NZ to join us in leading this initiative.

This will begin with national day of prayer on Wed. 1 April, with a full day (5:45am – 6pm) Zoom prayer conference, followed by an evening live-streamed prayer and worship service (8-9pm).

Days 2-9 will consist of a nightly 1-hour interactive Zoom prayer conference, from 8-9 pm.

Please go to the Pray As One NZ website and get the word out to your church and other Christian friends by sharing this with others.

Further details about Wednesday and the 8 days following will be uploaded on to the website.

Turning Blindness into Sight in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Turning Blindness into Sight in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea

…I have come into this world, so that the blind will see…

– Jesus, John 9:39

Imagine being blind and isolated, unable to be with your loved ones, and having to fend for yourself during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Eyesight is something we often take for granted. Yet there are many people in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG) who are needlessly blind.

With a Covid-19 lockdown in PNG, many people with disabilities cannot access the services they need and others risk having their life-changing surgeries delayed or cancelled.

But there is good news. Because most of cbm New Zealand’s projects are medical, they are essential services and can go ahead. cbm will adapt their work to help with the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 and to offer care and treatment.

Having access to vital sight-saving surgery is an incredible blessing. Many people in PNG have never seen a doctor before. Approximately 86% of the population live in rural areas, however, most health services and specialists’ practices are located in larger towns, this results in many people being deeply affected by avoidable blindness. In fact, 1-in-15 men and 1-in-10 women in the remote Highlands struggle with blindness.

Blindness is often met with suspicion, as those who are blind are usually stigmatised and become victims of human rights abuse. Isolation is commonplace. But thankfully, there is hope…

cbm New Zealand is an international Christian development organisation who have been working in PNG for the past forty years, delivering sight-saving cataract surgeries and other services. The aim is to reduce avoidable blindness, and build an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.

One person, whose life was completely transformed by attending a cbm funded outreach clinic, was Jack. Blindness had crushed Jack’s spirit. This was devastating for him as everything he did – to stay safe, earn a living and support his family – all depended on his sense of sight. He was unable to leave the house without being led. He lost all desire to be with other people. In his village, no-one knew how to encourage him and his family stopped being able to talk to him. Jack became depressed, angry, isolated and withdrawn. He lost hope of ever being a productive member of his family and his village.

Through the generosity of others, it was possible for Jack to undergo an operation for his sight to be restored at a cbm funded surgical outreach clinic. When Jack arrived at the outreach clinic, he was very concerned the surgery would not work, but he did not need to be. The surgery was a success and after the bandages were removed, his sight was restored. Relief and joy flooded his face. From that moment, Jack was a completely different man. He said he felt he had “been away” since losing his sight.

But thanks to receiving sight-saving surgery he could again live his life to the full – just as God intended!

One person, whose life was completely transformed by attending a cbm funded outreach clinic, was Jack. Blindness had crushed Jack’s spirit. This was devastating for him as everything he did – to stay safe, earn a living and support his family – all depended on his sense of sight. He was unable to leave the house without being led. He lost all desire to be with other people. In his village, no-one knew how to encourage him and his family stopped being able to talk to him. Jack became depressed, angry, isolated and withdrawn. He lost hope of ever being a productive member of his family and his village.

Jack before surgery
Jack’s gratitude after receiving life- changing cataract surgery

Through the generosity of others, it was possible for Jack to undergo an operation for his sight to be restored at a cbm funded surgical outreach clinic. When Jack arrived at the outreach clinic, he was very concerned the surgery would not work, but he did not need to be. The surgery was a success and after the bandages were removed, his sight was restored. Relief and joy flooded his face. From that moment, Jack was a completely different man. He said he felt he had “been away” since losing his sight.

But thanks to receiving sight-saving surgery he could again live his life to the full – just as God intended!

cbm New Zealand is continuing to transform the lives of many others like Jack. While Covid-19 has changed so much, cbm is grateful for the generous gifts from its supporters to be able to continue this vital work.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help build an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential, please visit www.cbmnz.org.nz