New Zealand is not a secular country, say Catholic bishops

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have thanked the Human Rights Commission for a document they say is “an excellent and useful legal, social and historical commentary on freedom of religion and belief in New Zealand”, but suggested two statements be reconsidered.

The draft discussion document, "Freedom of Religion and Belief", forms part of the Commission’s status report "Human Rights in New Zealand Today", currently being updated.

In a submission to the Human Rights Commission, the bishops say the document’s statement that “matters of religion and belief are deemed to be a matter for the private, rather than public, sphere,” is not easily reconciled with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

“These speak of the right to manifest religious belief in public or in private and to teach one’s religious beliefs,” say the bishops. “To suggest that matters of religion and belief belong only in the private sphere undermines the right of churches to seek to influence public opinion and political decision-making.”

The bishops also suggest that the document’s description of NewZealand as a “secular state” implies that a majority of New Zealanders have no religion. “This is contradicted by official statistics which show that a majority of New Zealanders described themselves as having a religion in the 2006 census.”

To arrange an interview with one of the bishops contact
Angela Pyke
Communications Adviser
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference
Tel 04 496 1725
Mob 021 611 052