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Church leaders turn up the heat on smacking bill.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on May 2, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Church leaders turn up the heat on smacking bill.
Wednesday, 02.05.2007, 08:22am (GMT12)

Church leaders turn up the heat on smacking bill

5:00AM Wednesday May 02, 2007
By Mike Houlahan 

Opposing sides in the so-called anti-smacking bill have sent their bishops into the fray, with religious leaders on both sides of the debate moving to the centre of the board.

Anglican bishops yesterday strengthened their support for Green MP Sue Bradford’s bill, saying its removal of a defence of reasonable force to discipline children would reinforce that violence against children was totally unacceptable.

Today a lunchtime rally at Parliament organised by bill opponents will be addressed by Destiny Church leader Bishop Brian Tamaki. Around the same time, an ecumenical service attended by church leaders who support the bill will be held in nearby Wellington Cathedral.

MPs resume their long-running debate this afternoon. Neither Ms Bradford nor her main opponent, National Wanganui MP Chester Borrows, expect the committee stages to be finished today. A final vote may be as far away as next month.

That has not stopped debate escalating, with the greater involvement of church leaders taking the discussion from the physical to the spiritual realm.

Anglican Archbishop David Moxon said the church had always engaged in honest, frank debate, and the bishops’ statement was part of the process. While their position might not poll well, it was consistent with the bishops’ reading of scripture.

“Reading of the Bible must always be done through the lens of Christ’s teaching and life. It is inappropriate to take texts such as Proverbs 13:24 [“Spare the rod and spoil the child”] out of their ancient cultural context and out of the broader context of scripture, so as to justify modes of behaviour in a modern situation very different from that for which they were given.

“This isn’t about going into people’s houses and telling people off for smacking. It is about removing a loophole of using reasonable force as a defence in court. It’s not an invasion of privacy, it’s a way of keeping children safe.”

Destiny’s Bishop Tamaki has a very different interpretation. He said the bill contradicted the God-given responsibility for parents to raise their children according to biblical principle, and that included administering “loving, proper corrective discipline in appropriate circumstances”.

“To pick on section 59 and then to aim it and target it on parents, to me is absolutely nonsensical. It’s an attack not just on Christian parents, but on all parents.

“This will not be a pro-smacking rally, nor church or religious matter. This is primarily a stand to challenge state interference with parental responsibilities as far as child raising goes, and especially relating to positive correction. That’s where our bone of contention is, it’s with that.”

Ms Bradford said from the first day she began speaking publicly on the bill she was aware of the religious aspect of the debate.

“It is as much a theological debate as it is a political, a social, a cultural, a psychological one,” she said.

“I’m thrilled with the statement from the Anglican bishops, and the church leader’s statement. Many Christian leaders from a wide range of churches have come out in support of the bill.

“I think it’s fantastic.”

With the support of Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, New Zealand First MPs Brian Donnelly and Doug Woolerton, Progressive leader Jim Anderton and United Future leader Peter Dunne, Ms Bradford has the numbers for her bill to pass.

However, Mr Borrows – whose amendment to allow parents to smack their children so long as it is with a hand and its impact is “trifling and transitory” will be debated tonight – remained hopeful he could change some MPs’ minds.

Countdown to law change

12.30pm. Mass rally against the Bradford bill begins on the steps outside Parliament. Speakers include former All Black Mark Allen and Destiny New Zealand leader Bishop Brian Tamaki.

1pm. Ecumenical church service in support of the Bradford bill begins in Wellington Cathedral, just across the road from Parliament. Representatives of Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic churches will attend, and then hold a silent march to the steps of the Parliamentary Library, where they will deliver to bill sponsor Sue Bradford a list of Christian leaders who support the proposed law change.

2pm. Parliament begins sitting. The committee stages debate on the Bradford bill is likely to begin some time after 4pm, with MPs likely to spend the rest of the day debating clause four. That clause is the core of the bill and puts its purpose – removing the possibility of a person accused of assault using a defence that they were using reasonable force to discipline a child. MPs may not even vote on clause four tonight, let alone clause five or a proposed sixth clause.


How the religious denominations view the bill

Anglican: The bill marks a further important step down the road towards transforming the disproportionately high rates of violence in our country … we believe repeal of section 59 provides an expression of hope and we wholeheartedly support it. – Statement from Anglican bishops.

Catholic: Caritas, the Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development, supports neither the status quo – which it feels does not adequately protect children – nor the bill, because it does not define a threshold for prosecution of parents using physical force. – Caritas statement.

Presbyterian: The church does not have an official position. Ministers and congregations are free to make their own response on the issue. – Right Rev Pamela Tankersley, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Methodist: The general approach of the Methodist church is to back Sue Bradford’s proposed bill. Not every member will hold that view, but as a church I believe that is where we could stand. – Methodist Church president John Salmon. Vision Network of evangelical churches.

The arguments for repeal did not seem compelling and the concerns about what may happen if that clause is repealed seemed to be quite valid. I would call on political leaders to find a way to really target the issue of child abuse, to improve the quality of child-rearing and not create the divisions in society that we’ve got. – Vision Network Director Glyn Carpenter.

Muslim: Islam has no view, but my personal view, which would be basically the majority view of our organisation, is that we would be opposed because it has the potential of making good parents into criminals. That is what we are worried about, because sometimes good parents have to take disciplinary action within the framework of the law. – Javed Khan, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.

The current law

What Section 59 of the Crimes Act says:

Every parent of a child and every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.

The proposed Law – then

What Sue Bradford’s bill said when she introduced it in July 2005

Section 59 of the principal act is repealed. The stated purpose of the bill: “To abolish the use of reasonable force by parents as justification for disciplining children.”

The proposed Law – now

What Sue Bradford’s bill says now after 18 months in a select committee [likely to pass]:

Section 59 is repealed and substituted with the following section on parental control: Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:

a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or

b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or

c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or

d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

It then says: Nothing [in the above] or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

The stated purpose of the amended bill changed: “To make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.”

Proposed addition to bill

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope has moved an amendment [likely to pass]:

To require the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development to review the effects of the new act after it has been in place for two years.

Proposed change before house national MP

Chester Borrows’ amendments to be debated tonight define the limits of unacceptable force [likely to fail]:

The use of force is unreasonable if it … causes or contributes materially to harm that is more than transitory and trifling; or any weapon or tool is used; or it is inflicted by any mean that is cruel, degrading, or terrifying. He wants the purpose of the bill changed to state: “To make better provision for the parental control of children by limiting the use of force for the purpose of correction.”

John Key’s failed proposal

The National leader tried but failed to find support for a proposal between Borrows and Bradford:

It would have adopted the Bradford purpose of the bill … “abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction”. He proposed a new Section 59: “Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of a child is justified in lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties if the smacking used was minor and inconsequential.”

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