November 2018

Kia Ora: It has been a dark month. Most certainly spring abounds in NZ but for some Humanist colleagues, life has taken a difficult path.  We are anxious for Gulalai Ismail who spoke so passionately at the NZ Humanist Conference in August. Gulalai also joined the 3 day Mini tour after the conference where her company was a delight. On her return to Pakistan Gulalai, a prominent peace activist and human rights defender, attended a Rally on 12 August, and then attended an IHEU Board meeting In London. On the morning of 12 October 2018, as Gulalai returned to Pakistan she was detained. Later that day, after massive international pressure supported by IHEU members around the world, Gulalai was released. But still the Pakistan authorities have not returned her passport, and she is still listed on the ‘exit control list’, removing her right to travel .IHEU have begun a Petition to support Gulalai and to date have 2000 signatures. Gulalai needs our help. Please sign and share the petition from IHEU’s website: https://iheu.org/petition-return-gulalai-ismails-passport-and-right-to-travel/

Monthly meeting: Monday November 5 6.30pm til 9.00pm

2018 Humanist Society of NZ AGM

·         Notice is given that our 2018 AGM will be held on Monday 5 November, 6.30pm at the Thistle Inn. The AGM will replace our monthly meeting. We welcome your attendance as we look towards 2019 and another year of humanist activity in NZ. Please consider joining us on our committee.

·        Remit: That our Society name be changed from Humanist Society of NZ to Humanist NZ

·        Rationale: this is to update the Society’s name which has been in use since the founding of the Society in 1964. The British Humanist Association Society has been updated to Humanists UK. Humanist NZ is also our website address: humanist.nz. This proposal was discussed at the June 2018 monthly meeting and had a favourable response.

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

Subscriptions 2019 Year: Subscriptions for 2019 are now due. Our subscription year runs January to December.  The subscription rates are: $35 for the year, or $20 if you are unwaged

As a large proportion of our Society’s savings were used to fund the NZ Humanist Conference in August 2018 we would appreciate subscription payment to help us continue with our humanist projects.

Counter Protest for Jesus for NZ: Tuesday 30 October 12.00pm until 1.30pm. Parliament will begin sitting 2pm.

In November 2017 it was reported that the Speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard had removed the mention of the Queen and Jesus from the Te reo karakia, or parliamentary prayer.

Changes to the prayer have been suggested for a number of years. In 2000, a petition was put forward to “continue to open [Parliament’s] sittings with a prayer, but with amended wording. The effect of the proposed wording would be that the prayer would no longer be specifically Christian in nature. In 2007, MPs voted to keep the prayer in its present form. A new prayer was proposed in 2014 but rejected. The Greens pushed for changes to the prayer to be broadened every year when Standing Orders were reviewed. Green MP Gareth Hughes wrote in 2013 that he did not think a Christian prayer reflected the “the rich and varied religious and spiritual life in New Zealand”.

A prayer for Parliament was first established in 1854 with the following wording.

Almighty God, Humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The proposed prayer that Trevor Mallard suggested is:

Almighty God, we give thanks for the blessings which have been bestowed on New Zealand. Laying aside all personal interests, we pray for guidance in our deliberations, that we may conduct the affairs of this House with wisdom and humility, for the public welfare and peace of New Zealand. Amen.

The Jesus for NZ organisers state:

We will bring a strong and clear message that actually, many New Zealanders, not just the church, do not agree with what has been done, nor how it was done. We will be asking, in no uncertain terms, that the name of Jesus Christ be reinstated to the Parliamentary prayer.

HOWEVER we as secularists think that an effective counter-protest would be to parody this idea, and argue that not only should Jesus be reinstated in parliament’s prayer, but all other religions should also be included. The Counter protest will stand outside Parliament Grounds. On a more serious note, we do not want to see the rise of a theocracy in NZ. When we know the difficulties that secular, humanist people face in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, we want to ensure separation of church and state in our own country. We wish for people to have the courage to apply human solutions to our difficulties and not PASS THE BUCK to a non-existent supernatural being.

Viola Namyalo who attended the IHEU General Assembly and NZ Humanist Conference in August leads a training programme for menstrual health among young girls in Uganda. They have had to call a halt to their classes as they have used all their funds for materials. Viola writes about the HALEA programme and if you would like to support this programme so that it may resume a donation may be made via the HSNZ bank account (BNZ 02-0392-0094973-000). If you reference your donation “Viola” we will ensure that contributions reach Viola in Uganda.  

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE SUPPORT FOR TEENS & YOUNG MOTHERS .

The Humanists Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability (HALEA) Youth Support Centre promotes Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights amongst teenagers in Kampala slums and young mothers at Pearl Vocational Training College in Lwengo district.

HALEA is currently providing training on menstrual hygiene having observed that many girls in Uganda do not have access to sanitary protection. Many girls use improper sanitary protections like papers, cow dung, old and dirty materials and banana leaves. This forces them to absent themselves from school during these days hence hindering good education and brings down their self esteem.

Having observed this, we provide training to empower girls understand what menstruation is, how to manage themselves safe and healthy and train girls how to make reusable pads using material from any local market.

We have been doing this with the little resources we have, we currently lack materials and tools to use while training girls how to make their own pads. We also lack a modern electric sewing machine which we need to use to start making pads and distribute them to young girls in our reach.

Our budget to secure materials and tools that can enable us make pads that can support over 1300 girls for a half a year plus the cost of buying a sewing machine is approximately US $ 2,100.

USD 600 for sewing machine and USD 1500 for materials. The material include a roll of Flice cloth (the top layer), 2 rolls of towel material (middle layer to absorb the blood) , 2 rolls of baby mat (plastic non leaking layer), 2 rolls of PV material bottom layer, needles and threads, dress marking pins, buttons, cutters for the template and sketch pens. These materials can help about 1300 girls learn how to make their own sanitary pads good to use for over 12 months.

Your support will enable us help a big number of girls access good sanitary pads and hence supporting them stay in school and leave a comfortable life while in their periods.

Our plan is to start making affordable reusable pads which we can give for free to girls we empower and sell some to people who can afford pay an affordable fee. This will help us sustain the pads making venture and continue empowering girls in need for a long time. Your support is highly appreciated.

Yours

Viola Nanyalo

Director, SRHR Services

HALEA Youth Support Centre

Kampala Uganda

www.haleauganda.org

Possible NZ initiative: Corresponding with a person in Prison:

We have people in prison who are interested in Humanism and receive our newsletter. Sometimes there is an expression of interest in communicating with a fellow humanist. Sometimes they are offered help and encouraged to ask for God’s help. But they do not wish for God’s help but would prefer to help themselves. If you feel able to correspond in such a situation please  email [email protected]

Blasphemy law repeal update

The Crimes Amendment Bill 32-1 2018 was introduced to parliament on 19 March, passed the first reading in parliament on the 28 March and was referred to the Justice Select Committee on 28 March 2018. The bill repeals 3 provisions in the Crimes Act 1961: Section 71(2) which protects spouses and civil union partners in cases where they would otherwise be an accessory after the fact to an offence; Section 123, the offence of blasphemous libel, and section 162, the year-and-a-day rule. Submissions on the Bill closed on the 10 May. The committee received and considered 42 submissions from interested groups and individuals. Oral evidence was heard from 5 submitters at hearings in Wellington and advice was received from the Ministry of Justice. The committee reported back to parliament on the 28 September 2018.

Section 5 of the Bill repeals Section 123, the offence of Blasphemous Libel, with no replacement legislation. Despite a number of submissions recommending replacement legislation, both the advice from the Justice Department on the submissions and the Select Committee’s report recommend no replacement for Section 123.

Submissions in favour of repeal of Section 123 without replacement were heard from The New Zealand Human Rights Commission, The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, the Humanist Society of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Association of Rationalist and Humanists, and from a number of individuals who identified as both religious and non-religious. A number if individuals who identified as Christian were in favour of retaining Section 123 or replacing it with some other legislation to prevent blasphemous statements.

The Justice Department considered the possibility proposed in submissions that repeal would alternatively either provoke or reduce violence and decided that neither was likely. In its advice it considered all the submissions carefully. The department drew attention to a number of submissions including:

Iain Middleton made some interesting observations about the origin of blasphemous libel in New Zealand. It “was originally developed in England to protect the central tenets of just one denomination, the Church of England, which now considers blasphemy law unnecessary to protect their faith. This church no longer supports the retention of such laws either in England or New Zealand.”

The Justice Committee recommended that the Crimes Amendment Bill be passed with no amendment to section 5 doing away with the offence of blasphemous libel.

They said that the bill as introduced seeks to repeal three sections of the Crimes Act 1961. Removing the three sections would modernise our law, as they are widely acknowledged to be out of date and not representative of contemporary attitudes in New Zealand society. Relevant passages from their report follow.

Blasphemous Libel

We heard concerns that the repeal would encourage hate speech against God, incite violence, and remove a safeguard for religious freedom. It was suggested that the repeal would disrupt the maintenance of wholesome boundaries in the media, and would insult God and the Christian foundations of New Zealand.

We consider it highly unlikely that the repeal of this little-known provision would result in any of these issues.

Arguments in support of repeal included the idea that the current law is an unwarranted restriction on the right to freedom of expression, and that it does not align with the values of modern New Zealand. It was also suggested that the current law is Christianity-specific and not suited to a secular society. A number of submitters suggested replacing section 123 with another provision to provide protection from anti-religious conduct or to prevent prosecution for expressing an opinion on a religious matter. We do not consider this necessary.

Issues we considered

We received 42 submissions on the bill. Most submitters commented only on the repeal of the blasphemous libel offence. A slight majority of submitters did not support the bill on this ground alone. A small number of submitters also raised issues about the repeal of the year and a day rule in section 162 and repeal of section 71(2).

Blasphemous libel

We recommend no changes to clause 5, which would repeal section 123, doing away with the offence of blasphemous libel.

We heard concerns that the repeal would encourage hate speech against God, incite violence, and remove a safeguard for religious freedom. It was suggested that the repeal would disrupt the maintenance of wholesome boundaries in the media, and would insult God and the Christian foundations of New Zealand.

We consider it highly unlikely that the repeal of this little-known provision would result in any of these issues.

Arguments in support of repeal included the idea that the current law is an unwarranted restriction on the right to freedom of expression, and that it does not align with the values of modern New Zealand. It was also suggested that the current law is Christianity-specific and not suited to a secular society. A number of submitters suggested replacing section 123 with another provision to provide protection from anti-religious conduct or to prevent prosecution for expressing an opinion on a religious matter. We do not consider this necessary.

So far it is looking positive that Section 123 will be repealed without replacement.

The Bill has now returned to Parliament and is on the order paper for a second reading which could take place in the near future, or it might be delayed indefinitely. After passing the second reading it will pass to the Committee of the whole House. At this stage it might be amended by the house with little notice and without due consideration. Despite all the evidence that repeal of section 123 will have no adverse impact, members might be swayed by emotional arguments that repeal of section 123 could have an adverse impact and the result could be a draconian and unnecessary restriction on freedom of expression.

If you have not already done so, write to your member of parliament and inform them that you are in favour of repeal of section 123 without any replacement legislation that might curtail freedom of expression or discussion of matters of religion or belief. Every voice counts.