Worlds colliding: aspects of New Zealand conservative Christians' encounter with the law

Christianity Religion Social conflict Humanities Arts and Social Science (HASS) New Zealand
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This is a study of a particular religious group, 'conservative Christians';, and their reaction to cultural and legal change in recent decades. Their religious liberty is a key focus. Part I provides the background. Chapter 1 describes the conservative Christian "narrative" of New Zealand-a story of cultural or de facto establishment of a generic Christianity followed by a cultural disestablishment of this dominant worldview from the about 1960s. Chapter 2 analyses the characteristic beliefs, denominational composition and worldview of conservative Christians, their attitude to the state and their opposition to the "spirit of the age". Chapter 3 describes the "Wellington worldview", the mindset of those in positions of power and influence in government, law, business, the media and so on. I argue liberal modernist premises are the governing ones. Chapter 4 propounds a model of engagement between the two worlds. Peaceful co-existence is the rule, but occasionally-due to the incompatibility of the two worldviews at certain key points-conflict does, and will occur, between conservative Christians and the state. Part II comprises a series of case studies involving past, current and potential conflicts between conservative Christians and the state. The aim is to see whether conservative Christian religious practices are either generally accommodated or disregarded by the state. Chapter 5 examines conservative Christian ambivalence toward human rights theory and chronicles instances of conflict between the state and such Christians. Chapters 6 to 8 focus upon a key conservative Christian institution, the family. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 has been a locus of concern for many conservative Christians concerned at the attenuation of parental authority. The potential impact of the Convention upon two significant parental rights-the parental right to control the religious upbringing of one's children and the parental right of corporal punishment-is evaluated. The next two chapters examine the conservative Christian opposition to the legal acceptance of homosexual practice and the growing legal recognition of homosexual rights. Chapter 9 analyses the freedom of churches to refuse to train and ordain openly-practising homosexual or lesbian candidates for the ministry in light of the legal prohibition upon sexual orientation discrimination. Chapter 10 explores the extent of conservative Christians' positive religious freedom to challenge the introduction of same-sex marriage.Part III concludes with some observations on religious tolerance in a post-Christian society.

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