Religious instruction in schools not new

When I was in Year 6, we were told that parent permitting, for an hour each Friday, our class would have religious instruction.

It was 1991. I was at Waimairi Primary School and we were learning about Christianity. Each lesson would start with a prayer to God. I occasionally said one – just for participations sake, rather than anything else – and it was always for peace.

Just as I do not now, I did not believe in God then. S/he is a higher being to some, but not I. What others believe in as far as I am concerned is up to them and not me. If they want to invite people to join them in prayer, there is no problem with that. My parents never told me what to believe. And at Waimairi, teachers had to obtain a written permission slip that was sent home with students and had to be signed by their parents or caregiver, permitting them to partake in the class. Those who were not granted permission were sent to the library for its duration.

Apparently religious instruction happens in 600 schools across New Zealand, so it is hardly rare or restricted to just a few places. Nor is it just Catholic or Christian churches that want New Zealand schools to give instruction. There are schools such as Hagley Community College in Christchurch that have a prayer room, mainly used by Muslim students.

My stance on religion is simple and non-negotiable. Believe what you want, but do not force it upon me or anyone else.

It has been an interesting debate. I have been told by Muslims that I am a non-believer and somehow inferior; by Christians and Catholics that I will go to hell for my non belief in a higher being. The creationists among the God based religions have tried to argue with me that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. There is no persuading me on that count – the theory of evolution is very much what I believe in.

Should one take precedence? Absolutely not. New Zealand is supposed to be a tolerant, welcoming and open minded society where anyone – provided they abide by our law and customs – is welcome.

In their own time and way I have seen progress in the Church. It might not like the idea of same sex marriage but at the end of the day, the sun has continued to rise in the east; your teenage daughter if you have one will continue arguing like she knows everything and you will still have to pay tax – in other words life will go on.

So, there is nothing wrong with religion being taught in New Zealand schools as long as no one faith is given precedence. As long as any parent who does not wish their child to be involved in such instruction is given the chance to withdraw them.

Why I support David Seymours euthanasia bill

David Seymour, M.P. for Epsom in central Auckland, has a rare ally in passing his euthanasia Bill of Parliament: me.

Those who know me know I generally despise the A.C.T. Party and everything it stands for. They know I think it goes completely contrary to all that I stand for and want to be seen to be standing for. So one could perhaps be a bit surprised that I am standing up for a Bill of Parliament from a single-M.P. party that I had hoped would meet its electoral oblivion last year.

There are a few reasons why I choose to support Mr Seymours Bill of Parliament:

  1. I believe that a person who is suffering illness that is terminal in nature, degrading to their being and which will eventually kill them – not before making them endure a degrading death no right person would wish on them – should have the right to decide whether they want to continue to suffer
  2. Mr Seymours Bill acknowledges that there are risks around the implementation of the euthanasia process should it be legalized and it has sought to address them
  3. If Mr Seymour does not bring the Bill to Parliament, someone else will, so it is a conversation that New Zealand is going to have sooner or later
  4. It is not a loop hole that will let children bump off elderly parents – the Bill ensures that there are checks written into it which will stop that kind of behaviour from happening

Over the last couple of years we have seen some painful cases of debilitating illnesses degrading people to a state where their lives had no purpose or dignity. One need to look no further than lawyer Lecretia Seales or former trade union activist Helen Kelly. Both were suffering debilitating illness that had made their lives painful and increasingly lacking in dignity.

As mentioned in previous articles, there will be individuals and organizations that cannot accept this. That is fine. New Zealand is a democracy and it is quite fine to have an opinion. It is equally fine to express it, as I hope that they did in making a submission on the Bill of Parliament before submissions closed on Tuesday. What is just as fine is for people to disagree with them, as I do and no doubt many others will as well. It is not for myself or others or organizations to decide what a person can do with their body or their life.

Where I think there needs to be a change in procedure is taking this out of the hands of a conscience vote in Parliament. A conscience vote is where M.P.’s votes are determined by their own beliefs and not by science or reasoned logic based on research. The fact that conscience votes on divisive topics such as this have so far gone in the direction that I had hoped for is more luck than anything. That is not to say that they will go in that way in the future.

A.C.T.’s End of Life Choice Bill before Parliament

Lecretia Seales, a Wellington lawyer who had an incurable brain disease, died nearly 2 1/2 years ago. She was 42. Through out the last stages of her life she fought to have the right to die a peaceful death by lethal injection on her own terms, instead of potentially losing her dignity. The case has raised the issue in New Zealand of whether or not one should have that right. Three separate attempts to resolve it through the legislative processes of Parliament have all met with failure.

Yesterday another attempt in the form of A.C.T. Party Leader David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill began. Mr Seymour who has actively championed a right for a patient in terminal pain or suffering a terminal illness, particularly if it is debilitating in nature, is confident New Zealanders will support the Bill.

It has the support of various National and Labour Members of Parliament including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour M.P.’s Iain Lees-Galloway and Kris Faafoi, as well as National M.P.’s such as Chris Bishop, Nathan Guy and Mr Seymour. New Zealand First will support it if an amendment to require a public referendum on the issue is added – which Mr Seymour said he will support if N.Z. First can find the votes.

There are moral and ethical issues that any court considering such an issue should deal with.  It needs to be sure that it is not going to set such a legal precedent that could be reasonably challenged in a court of law.

I personally support a process to allow people with terminal illness or pain to die with dignity. To watch someone a person loves and cares about suffer pain they do not need to suffer, knowing it will never go away and over time will only get worse is devastating. To watch their dignity disappear and the life, the personality of the person drain from their being before ones eyes is not something I would wish on anyone.

The process will need checks and balances. I propose the following checks and balances:

  • Is fully aware of the decision that they are making and able to comprehend it
  • Has signed something that has a prominent place on their medical file, expressly permitting them to be put to sleep
  • Has a doctor whose ethical suitability for administering the lethal injection has been certified, and that a process overseen by an appropriate medical organization such as the Royal College of General Practitioners for ensuring only such doctors are able to carry out such procedures is in place

I understand that this will provoke a substantial and at times tense and controversial reaction. That is quite okay. This was always going to be a contentious Bill of Parliament no matter which way it goes, or how far through the legislative process it gets. I understand that those adhering to a particular faith will be potentially alarmed at what they will see as an attack on morality. Again, it is quite okay to express strong opinion.

What is not okay is to openly advocate violence against institutions or people that support/do not support this. That will just – aside from being criminal due to the violence promoted – be hugely and unnecessarily inflammatory. What is not okay is to be deliberately obstructionist.

I hope I never have to make this decision on behalf of a loved one, but I would be guided by what they want first and foremost. Then I would worry about how to carry their wishes out legally. And the moralizing people will just have to live with it.

Hugh Hefner: Divisive in life and divisive in death

Hugh Hefner was divisive in life. Hugh Hefner was divisive in death.

I am not sure how appropriate it is to acknowledge Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and the man who established the famous Playboy Mansion. So, perhaps this rather short statement is more to acknowledge his existence, rather than than to necessarily lead a cheering squad for pornography, hardcore or not. Tasteful or not.

It should not be a surprise if it does some sort of cheer leading squad. Some loved Mr Hefner and will point to his estate, to Playboy, the magazine and this includes both men and women. If Mr Hefner was so bad as some say, why did and do so many respect his contribution for what it is – or is not – to society? If he was so bad, why have we not heard about alleged abuse like we have about Jimmy Savile  and Rolf Harris?

I sit on the fence. He is what he was. I do not endorse exploitation of women. But in his 91 years, I am not sure he did either.

But if an adult woman chooses to become involved in making programmes/movies/documentaries of an overtly sexual nature, that is her choice. If an adult woman chooses to do a photo shoot in which she is stark naked, and knows that the photos will be a spread in the pages of a major magazine, again that is her choice.

If two consenting adults of the same orientation want to have sex in front of the camera and record it, fine. The key words are “adult” and “consenting”.

What we need to do is stop pretending. We need to acknowledge school boys at an age well under the minimum probably look for porn on their phones, or on the internet. Did I say it was okay? Not at all. NOT. AT. ALL.

But they do. And they will.

Parents need to grow a spine. Be a parent. Not their best mate. You might love them with all your heart but you have a job to do and that is show them right from wrong. Good from bad. Yadda yadda yadda.

So does the justice system. Cut the crap and call rape, rape. That all it is. A disgusting, damaging offence for which the only answer is jail and a rehabilitation into society that can only start when the offender acknowledges that they did a terrible wrong.

Mr Hefner may have contributed to moral issue around this. I acknowledge that.

Hugh Hefner was a person who for as long as I can remember him was associated with pornography. There was no getting away from it.. Mr Hefner proclaimed to be the man who whose mere attendance gave hope to his play bunnies. I think it s fair to say that whilst we did not know what Mr Hefner had envisaged, the reality was that his politics had angered or annoyed people to a one-on-one. The story never really had fairy tales or was perceived as being a moral hazard.

At some point or another many girls who thought – mistakenly – that they would be up to the arduous tasks to impress their boss and get the media hounds onto them quickly had become disillusioned. Ones body – male or female – is worth more than the lines or imagery necessary to explain what Playboy Mansion was trying to achieve. His memory will live on, though I am not sure it it will ever address the confronting nature of pornography in society, it will definitely belong to one of the more colourful – if not divisive – members of society.

Hugh Hefner. 09 April 1926-27 September 2017.


Reviewing New Zealand’s abortion laws

The other day it came to my attention that an Oklahoma politician wants to pass a law, that requires women seeking an abortion to get permission from the man. I was shocked and posted it to my Facebook page. I honestly thought America had taken a big step backwards, until a contact advised that it had not yet become law.

However at a second glance of New Zealand’s 1977 Sterilsation, Contraception and Abortion Act, it would appear that all the fault’s raised about America’s abortion laws, New Zealand would do well to look at its own.

Pro-life organizations such as Right to Life however strongly resist this happening, saying that the sanctity of life from conception to ones natural death is endangered by abortion. On their website R.t.L. have the following stated aim:

To work purposefully towards, the achievement of the realisable ideal of no abortions within our society

There are however two massive and – in my view fundamental – flaws to Right to Life’s argument. First, Right to Life in no way acknowledge that a victim of rape or incest was subject to a grave criminal offence against her will. Second, if the female develops medical complications in any pregnancy brought on by the act of rape, again the choice as to whether she aborts or not should be hers alone. It should also be exempt in all respects from Section 187A of the Crimes Act (see below).

But New Zealand’s laws concerning are not so advanced as to considered perfect or even satisfactory for the purpose of maintaining an appropriate abortion regime. Section 18 of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act forbids abortions to be conducted after 12 weeks unless the medical practice conducting it has a full license. Those practices holding a full license may conduct abortions as and when the committee sees fit, irrespective of what stage the pregnancy is at.

At 20 weeks, unless the pregnancy falls into one or more of paragraph (1), subsections (a) to (d) of Section 187A of the Crimes Act, performing an abortion becomes an illegal act.

Consideration also needs to be given in the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 to sex workers becoming pregnant to a client, whom they are unlikely to see again and may get no support from should they proceed to have the child.

Consideration also needs to be given in the same act for those children who may be born through no fault of their own to mothers under the influence of narcotics, or who have suffered abuse not necessarily through their own fault from these substances.

I believe that allowance needs to be made for the failure of contraceptive methods due to the whole purpose of those methods being to prevent pregnancy occurring in the first place. Abstinence, whilst practiced by many is a not altogether realistic expectation to be placed uniformly on society.

Therefore the case exists to reform the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, 1977.