Kia ora: It is winter already so if you haven’t renewed your HSNZ membership now is the time! Visit our website humanist. org if you are either renewing your membership or signing up for the first time. Your support is much appreciated and helps lend weight to our campaigns.

Already this year we have submitted a response on behalf of non-religious New Zealanders to the Government consultation on assisted dying, met with Grant Robertson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, to discuss blasphemy laws in New Zealand and the 2015 Freedom of Thought Report, an annual survey on discrimination and persecution against non-religious people in countries around the world, and have provided support and advice to a number of secularist and atheist bloggers who have fled Bangladesh and are seeking asylum status following the escalation of attacks and murders by Islamist extremists.

A number of our Humanist Society members are continuing their support of students with our School Sponsorship programme in Kathmandu, Nepal.

We’ve had several meetings at our new venue The Thistle Inn. It’s great to have a private room, suitable for presentations and discussions, while having access to food and drink. It’s also a good location in that it’s close to the railway station and there’s no trouble finding a park. If you’re from Wellington come and join us for our next meeting. It’s great meeting new people with new ideas.

Monthly meeting: Tuesday 7th June 6.30 pm

A to Z (or some of it) of Humanism

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DAY FROM MONDAY TO TUESDAY, AS MONDAY IS A PUBLIC HOLIDAY (QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY WEEKEND)

This evening will give a good background to Humanism, and we will discuss and explore Humanism on a deeper level. The evening will pose challenging questions on a variety of issues, and will look at Humanism throughout history. As preparation for this event, please read the Amsterdam Declaration. We look forward to chatting with you about Humanism.

Our meeting venue is the Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, near the Wellington Railway Station. We will meet upstairs in the George Room. As long as we purchase some food and liquid refreshment there will be no charge for the use of the room..

Please note CHANGE OF DAY- TUESDAY 7 JUNE !!!!!!!

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.

Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St in the George Room

CFI Merge with Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) is merging with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS). RDFRS‘s chief executive officer and president, Robyn E. Blummer is now the chief executive officer of CFI. The organisation, which will retain the name CFI, will be the largest freethought organisation in the United States. Combining the unique strengths of both CFI and RDFRS is expected to significantly increase the impact of their shared vision. For more information on the merger check out the Center For Inquiry website.

Secular Education Network (SEN) UPDATE

After a two year battle by SEN campaigner Tanya Jacob, a 2001 report from the Ministry of Education’s legal division has finally been released. The documents stated a challenge to religious instruction in state schools on the grounds of direct discrimination could not be legally defended by the Ministry of Education. It also stated that the Government should examine whether religious instruction in state schools was appropriate.

Tanya Jacob and David Hines are leading one of two High Court actions by SEN members challenging religious instruction in state schools on the grounds of its inconsistency with human rights legislation. These documents should strengthen the position of SEN in the upcoming court case.

Jacob and Hines were granted permission to make submissions in Jeff McClintock’s case, against both Red Beach School and the Attorney General (for the MoE). Unfortunately McClintock’s case was struck off whilst some details were still being resolved. An appeal has subsequently been lodged.

SEN has also received media attention following academic Paul Moon’s recent opinion piece in the Herald, in which he claimed that the removal of religious instruction from schools would also mean ‘a banning of Maori culture’. This alarmist piece seems to have had the desired effect of causing a knee jerk reaction amongst some Maori. It has also generated considerable discussion on the Facebook pages of both SEN and the Community of Maori Atheists and Freethinkers. Ngaire McCarthy, representing SEN, was interviewed by Te Karere. Read her article ‘Christian Co-option of Karakia’.

Visit the Givealittle page to donate now and help us support secular education in New Zealand schools.

Maori ritual and Christian indoctrination in New Zealand

By Ngaire McCarthy

I am a life member, past president, and now Trustee of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists in Auckland. I am a member of The Maori Women’s Welfare League. I am a Justice of the Peace.

MyIwi (tribal heritage) is Ngapuhi, Ngati Hako, and Ngati Tamatera.

I believe that there should be no ‘school prayer’ no ‘religious dogma’ or ‘creed’ taught in our state schools. Our state sponsored schools should be run on strictly secular, ‘separation of church and state’, non-sectarian principles.

Before the missionaries introduced Christianity into Aotearoa New Zealand, we Maori had karakia. These are customary, mostly secular, ritual chants. These traditions and customs continue to be an innate and important part of our culture. We still open and close numerous ceremonies with karakia.

There are hundreds of different karakia that are used for different occasions, but the majority of New Zealanders think there is only one.

The traditional karakia that is used to open and close ceremonies is not a Christian prayer, it is a ritual chant, a set form of words to state or make effective a ritual activity. Karakia are recited rapidly using traditional language, symbols and structures.

The early missionaries saw Maori traditions through a Biblical framework and believed that karakia was always a prayer, so they took the word and reinterpreted it to mean Christian prayer. The word karakia then became just another tool of colonization.

If the few kaumatua (elderly Maori) who articulate the karakia, are Christian, they will continue to misrepresent our customary karakia. This puts them into direct conflict with our pre-colonization customary traditions.

This is not to say that our customs and traditions cannot evolve to meet the changing times. They have and they do. We, the indigenous first nation people of Aotearoa, have a Treaty partnership with the New Zealand government. Our social customs are an important part of the cultural diversity of this country, recognised in the Treaty of Waitangi, and as such, are inviolable.

Returning to the case for the removal of religious instruction and prayers from our state schools, I argue we must focus on religion itself. The language, nationality or race of the religious people involved in instruction and prayer in state schools is irrelevant. It all has to go.

In New Zealand, the religions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others, have the privilege of state funding for their private schools and buildings of worship, but it seems that those privileges are not enough for them.

We atheists, freethinkers, or indeed, open religiously-minded parents who believe in the separation of church and state, enrol our children into a state school, believing that the school will be free from any form of religious prayers, hymns or instruction.

Children are susceptible and suggestible, and will, without question, believe anything an adult tells them. To take the mind of a child and teach them about religion as if it were an established fact, is tantamount to child abuse and the state should not be encouraging it.

In some of our state schools the practice of segregating/separating religious and non-religious children into groups for religious instruction is unprincipled, and encourages discrimination between the two groups in the playground.

There is also a real danger that non-religious children will be judged/evaluated negatively by religious teachers. That can undermine performance, cognitive flexibility and will power. Teachers at state schools should not be cognizant to the religious belief or the non-religious belief of the children in their care.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 permits religious instruction and observance in schools as long as it is done in a way that does not ‘discriminate’ against anyone who does not share that belief. But as long as religion in any form is enabled by government to allow instructions/prayer in our state schools, then discrimination is an inevitable fact.

It is not a question of equal access to children’s minds for all, it is a question of allowing innocent children the right to come to a belief in their own good time.

The 2013 New Zealand Census found that the population of indigenous Maori stood at 598,605. Of that, 263,517 of us Maori ticked the ‘no religion’ box. That was 46.3 per cent of Maori, almost the same percentage of New Zealanders of European descent, at 46.9 per cent, with no religion.

These figures show that in spite of two centuries of pressure from the dominant Christian religious culture of New Zealand, Maori are rapidly breaking free from dogmatic religion.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.

As one of the 263,517 Maori who have no religion, I believe that our conscience, our freedom of thought, our freedom from religion, are, with the aid of the state, being jeopardized through the prejudice of privileging religion through our taxes and our schools..

Since colonization, the arrival of other religious traditions on our shores have compromised Maori karakia, as I discussed above, and entrenched mainly Christian indoctrination in our state schools.

If we fail to remove all religion from our state schools we will be sacrificing our future well-being merely in order to appease imposed religious belief systems that show little, or no tolerance, toward those who disagree with them.

 

Freethinking Parents

Parenthood is a time when people tend to need more community support. Even though New Zealand is a fairly non-religious society, church groups are often the ones providing this support.

Jolene Phipps has set up the ‘Freethinking Parents – NZ’ Facebook page to share articles and information on secular parenting. The intention is to build an online community of freethinking parents that could be used in the future to organise playgroups or meet-ups around New Zealand.

The Facebook page is a group for parents with kids of all ages and for others in the non-religious community that are interested in parenting or education. I think a broader group can provide more diversity of experience and knowledge. Parenthood is a time when perspectives from different generations can be particularly beneficial.

If you have any comments or ideas, please contact Jolene through the ‘Freethinking Parents – NZ’ Facebook page. “I’m looking for people to get involved” says Jolene

Affiliation of HSNZ and NZRH

We are delighted to announce that the Humanist Society of New Zealand and the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists are now mutually affiliated organisations.

What this means for HSNZ members is that:

  • You’ll have all the same rights as full members of NZARH, with the exception of voting rights.
  • You’ll be considered an affiliate member of the NZARH at no additional cost.

If you are an HSNZ member and would like to opt out of being an affiliate of the NZARH please let us know by emailing [email protected] no later than July 21.

Kathmandu man becomes first from Asia to be elected executive member of IHEU

Uttam Niraula, a young humanist from Kathmandu, has become the first person from Asia to sit in the executive committee of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a representative body of the humanist movement globally.

Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, the IHEU envisions a Humanist world in which ‘human rights are respected and everyone is able to live a life of dignity’. The organisation, which has hundreds of thousands of members worldwide, is present in 43 nations and represents over 90 different organisations. A General Assembly of the IHEU held in Malta on May 22 elected Mr Niraula as one of two executive committee members. Out of five contestants for the two member positions, Mr Niraula and Kato Musaka from Uganda were elected while  president Andrew Copson was re-elected unopposed for a second term. Apart from president and two members, IHEU’s executive committee has a treasurer and a vice president. They are elected for a three year term.

Mr Niraula is not only the first person from Nepal but also from the entire Asian region to win a position in the five-member executive committee, he told southasia.com.au.

The 32 year old has been contributing to the world humanist movement for ten years now. Prior to this, the young father was the Vice President and communications officer of the youth wing of IHEU, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation (IHEYO).

“It is widely believed that humanist ideology began in Asia but currently we are lagging behind in terms of humanist campaigns. So, it will be my focus to reinvigorate the humanist movement in South Asia and also in my own country, Nepal,” Mr Niraula said in a conversation with southasia.com.au

IHEU is headquartered in London and registered as an international non-governmental organisation (NGO).

The organisation has representation on various United Nations committees and other international bodies.

Quotable Quote from Joseph Campbell Creative Mythology  “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

Jolene Phipps