Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.), PO Box 3372, Wellington, New Zealand – Registered Charity No. CC36074

The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a Member Organisation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union

Humanist Newsletter– October 2019

Kia Ora: Thank you Aaron for compiling the September newsletter with such capable hands. As this newsletter content shows, committee members have been busy with a submission project, a press release and we are very appreciative of Colin Woodhouse’s groundbreaking work to begin to open up non-religious pastoral care services. We were also delighted early this month to hear the long hoped for news that Humanist International board member, Gululai Ismail, has reached safety in the USA, where she is applying for political asylum.

Humanist Catch-UpMonday October 7 @ 6.30pm until 9.00pm

Once again, our meeting this month will be a chance to catch up and discuss Humanist related topics. Last month we discussed the Submission to the Abortion Legislation Committee consultation of the Abortion Legislation Bill, which appears below. If you’re new and have any questions about humanism in general, or specifically about Humanist NZ, please join us. People of all beliefs and views are welcome to this safe and friendly social event.

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

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

2019 AGM: November monthly meeting Monday 4 November 6.30pm. Peter Clemerson will also present a report on the Hate Speech/Free Speech debate, from a Victoria University lunchtime seminar held 10 October.

Skeptics Conference, Christchurch, 29th Nov – 1st Dec

Featuring local speakers AND, direct from the USA, the hosts of the high-profile Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast –  featuring individual talks by Dr. Steven Novella and Cara Santa Maria, as well as psychic-debunker and guerrilla skeptic, Susan Gerbic, and world-renowned mentalist Mark Edward and all our other great speakers.

Join us for a fun and informative event of skeptical thinking and activity. The weekend will include talks by guests, panel discussions, and a live recording of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe Podcast!

Events kick off on the Friday evening with a conference welcome. It’s a fun social gathering for all attendees, designed to ‘break the ice’, and lead into the activities on the following days. The venue is the reputedly-haunted Riccarton House.

Saturday night features an exquisite Gala Dinner and entertainment, giving you the opportunity to spend time with our speakers and other attendees, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Submission to the Abortion Legislation Committee consultation of the Abortion Legislation Bill on behalf of the Humanist Society of New Zealand (Humanist NZ)

About Us

Humanist NZ is a national charity working to promote humanism by supporting and representing the non-religious in New Zealand. We promote a secular state and equal treatment of everyone, regardless of their religion or belief.

Humanist NZ works on behalf of the 42% (over 1.6 million) of people in New Zealand who declare themselves to be non-religious, and who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.


Humanists are non-religious people who live by moral principles based on reason and respect for others. One of the aims of humanist organisations around the world is to promote humanist views on public policy, especially where others are actively promoting views opposed to humanist values, or where non-religious perspectives are excluded or weak.

Humanists use reason, evidence and compassion to form our views on public policy.

The humanist position on Abortion law reform.

Humanist NZ campaigns in favour of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Our position on abortion is ‘pro-choice’, the right of a woman alone to choose to have an abortion. We believe that contraception and high-quality, comprehensive sex and relationships education should be widely and freely available. We support families, including the right of parents to plan their families, and want every child to be a planned and wanted child.

Access to free, safe, legal, and timely abortion on request when needed is a humanist position supported by hundreds of Humanist organisations around the world.

Humanist NZ has long campaigned for reform of our abortion law. For example, one of our former presidents, a medical doctor, set up the original abortion clinic in Auckland which carried out abortions back when the legality of doing so was still unclear. The clinic was raided by the police and our president was arrested three times and charged with performing illegal abortions. Each time he was found not guilty by a jury, and released to continue his work.

Some members of our organisation were also involved in creating the Abortion Law Reform Association.


Our submission has been informed by a consultation process with our members.

We would like to comment broadly on the importance of the Abortion Legislation Bill, and then make recommendations on a number of key points.

We support the decriminalisation of abortion, the repeal of the current legal grounds for authorising an abortion, the repeal of the role of, and requirement for, certifying consultants, and commend the Bill for establishing safe areas, making provisions for counselling, and clearly outlining a process for conscientious objectors.

20 week criteria (s10 & s11)

We believe that the 20 week criteria for accessing an abortion on request is too low. This is out of step with the Law Commission’s recommendation of 24 weeks.

An anatomy scan is offered to pregnant women at around 18-20 weeks. By establishing in law additional requirements for qualified health practitioners to access the woman’s physical health; mental health; and well-being, women may:

request an abortion in haste to avoid the uncertainty of being able to access an abortion after passing 20 weeks, or

not be able to access an abortion following an anatomy scan at 20 weeks.


We recommend that in s10 and s11 that 20 weeks is replaced with 24 weeks.

We recommend that the Ministry of Health issues guidelines to qualified health practitioners on the assessment of a woman’s physical health; mental health; and well-being under this legislation.

Provision of counselling (s12 & s13)

We support the requirement for the Minister of Health to provide counselling services, and for health practitioners to advise a woman of the availability of counselling services.

However, we are concerned that counselling services could be delivered by religious or other organisations that object to abortions on principle. Already in New Zealand, we have seen organisations with an anti-abortion position  set up counselling services to persuade women that they should not have abortions. It was reported in September this year that these counselling organisations have been receiving government funding (see Morning Report, 4 & 5 September 2019, Anti-abortion counselling services received $330k taxpayer money), and that the funding of these organisations was probably illegal – in contravention of the government’s own regulations.


We strongly recommend that abortion counselling is only provided by secular organisations that meet required standards and do not have a religious or philosophical anti-abortion bias.

Funding for abortion counselling should only be awarded to secular organisations without an anti-abortion bias. This is in line with government regulations to not provide grants that promote religious activities.

Abortion counselling service providers that either have staff that have a conscientious objection to abortion, have ties with religious organisations, or are philosophically opposed to abortion should be compelled to declare these publicly, for example, on websites and in publications, and shall be excluded from the list of abortion counselling providers under section 18 and 19 as suggested below.

Duties of Director-General of Health (s18)

Recommendation, add paragraph (d) as follows:

   (d) make and maintain a list of approved counselling service providers.

Conscientious objection (s19)

We support the measured approach to managing contentious objections as an employment issue. However, we think this could be further strengthened to protect women from undue pressure, and to reduce the likelihood of wasted visits to health practitioners. We believe that, for women seeking an abortion, merely providing a list may not be enough, and that more concrete actions should be taken.


We recommend that abortion counselling services are included in the list in section 19 (1)

In section 19 (2) ‘at the earliest opportunity’ should include ‘and declared on the medical practitioners’ and counselling providers’ websites’.

Ensure that women using medical services know their rights, and establish an 0800 number for making complaints anonymously.

Append ‘tell B how to access the list of abortion service providers’ with ‘refer B to an abortion service provider on request’.

Self-referral to abortion services (s14)

We strongly support women being able to self-refer to an abortion provider.

Safe areas (s15)

We strongly support the creation of safe areas around places where abortions are being performed.

Recommendation that ‘and’ s15(3)b(i) is replaced with ‘or’ as follows:

(i) is intended to cause the person emotional distress; or

(ii) would cause emotional distress to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the person.

No religion overtakes Christianity in 2018 census results

by Sara Passmore | Sep 24, 2019 | Press Release

Following this press release, both Sara and Jolene Phipps, our President, talked on the radio about this issue, and it was great to see the press giving it coverage.

Humanists are calling for an end to the concessions afforded to Christian groups, as the number of non-religious people overtakes all other belief groups in New Zealand combined.

This week, the release of data from the latest census has confirmed that New Zealand’s non-religious population continues to grow, with 48% of the population now identifying as non-religious. This makes ‘no religion’ the largest belief group in New Zealand.

However, Humanist New Zealand says that public policy fails to recognise the growth of non-religious beliefs, and is calling on the Government to end the privileges awarded to religious groups.

Humanist NZ President, Jolene Phipps, states, “Christianity has a privileged position in public policy today that is out of step with modern New Zealand. From parliamentary prayers, to classrooms ‘closing’ during the school day so that Christian groups can run religious instruction, the concessions awarded to religious organisations clash with human rights and our concept of a free and fair society.”

Humanist NZ is calling for an end to the discrimination non-religious New Zealanders face.

“In our hospitals ten Christian churches get 100% of the funding for chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual support from the Ministry of Health.” Phipps states. “Religious groups are awarded charity status and tax exemptions just for promoting religion.”

“Non-religious people need more recognition, support, services, and representation. We want to work together to ensure our voices are heard.”

Pastoral care for the Non-Religious: In the light of the Census figures, where 48% of New Zealanders consider themselves non-religious, Colin Woodhouse, who spoke at a Humanist NZ meeting earlier this year on the need for non-religious pastoral care, has written to the Minister of Health requesting funding for non-religious pastoral care. Below is Colin’s letter and the Minister’s reply.

Dear Dr Clark,

I am a registered nurse in neurosciences with a particular interest in palliative care. I am also non-religious and a member of Humanists NZ. I have to bring to your attention that there is a significant gap in the chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual support service available in public hospitals across the country.

I am sure you are aware that the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy (ICHC) holds a contract for the chaplaincy service with the MoH and has done so for over 25 years. The ICHC is a panel of 10 Christian churches which, to me, appears rather biased. Although all salaried and laypeople appointed by the ICHC are trained to speak with people of all religions or none this does not guarantee that they are meeting the patients, their relatives and the hospitals’ staff members’ needs. Non-religious people might choose to not speak with someone who is religious or simply cannot do so.

If patients are religious but not Christian the hospital chaplaincy services have contact numbers for representatives of other beliefs who can be called in. This was clearly seen in Christchurch in the aftermath of 15th March. Many Imams came from the North Island to support the families of the dead, the injured and the witnesses to the terrorist acts. I doubt anyone would argue it would have been appropriate for ICHC Christian only staff to offer support on a ‘trained to speak with all religions’ basis rather than to bring in Imams.

As things stand there are no trained non-religious pastoral or spiritual support providers available in the public hospitals in New Zealand.

The 2001, 2006 and 2013 censuses showed that the proportion of the population recorded as non-religious has been increasing steadily. In 2013 the proportion stood at 42%. Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism have increased which reflects the immigration of people from Asia. Over that period Christianity has decreased. A survey conducted in 2018 suggests that 55% of the population are now non-religious. It will be interesting to see the data from the 2018 census when published.

With these significant changes in the religious beliefs of the population it is not right for a Christian only chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual support system to be in place in the public hospitals. By failing to provide appropriate support the MoH could be judges as in breach of the Human Rights Act (1993) section 21(d) and the Health and Disability Commissioner’s Code of Rights.

I have attached a copy of my last assignment which is a planning paper for a Master’s in health sciences through the University of Canterbury. I have also attached a copy of an article which was published in the NZNO Kai Tiaki Journal in June this year and the response to it and my reply in the July edition.

I am putting a great deal of work into this topic and have established contact and support from the people in the UK who established and developed the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN). Because of their work over 40% of hospitals and 20% of prisons now have non-religious pastoral support workers available. This is based on fewer than 10 salaried staff and over 400 volunteers. The survey Humanists UK did in 2016 showed that the majority of responders, both religious and non-religious, agreed that institutions with chaplaincy services should also provide non-

religious pastoral support. It also showed that non-religious people were 4 times more likely to access pastoral care if non-religious providers were available.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you want to blame anyone for me writing to you, you should talk with Duncan Webb. He is my MP and we discussed this when he called around to my house on Sunday. He suggested I write to you so I have.

I look forward to hearing from you about this important matter.


Dear Mr Woodhouse

Thank you for your correspondence of 15 August 2019 regarding chaplaincy, pastoral and spiritual support services in New Zealand hospitals. I appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns.

I note your comments regarding the changing demographics in New Zealand and the need for pastoral support in the public health system that reflects this. I acknowledge your advocacy on this subject, and I appreciate you sharing your research and article with me, which I read with interest.

As you are aware, the Ministry of Health is the primary funder of chaplaincy services in New Zealand. This funding is managed through the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy (ICHC). The ICHC alsomreceives funding from some district health boards (DHBs) and through other sources, such as church donations.

Hospital chaplains offer pastoral, spiritual, and religious care to those within the DHB community in accordance with Te Whare Tapa Wha model of health. While hospital chaplains tend towards Christian affiliation, they provide much more than just religious support. I recognise the importance of non-religious Pastoral support services for patients and their families, and as you note, chaplains are expected to listen and provide service to all people regardless of their religious denomination, faith orientation, belief system, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

You may wish to share your research and concerns directly with ICHC.

Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts. I wish you well.

Yours sincerely

Hon Dr David Clark

Minister of Health