The New Zealand Ministry of Education senior manager Martin Connolley is all upset that prayer takes place in some public New Zealand schools. Among other things, Christian Karakia (Maori prayers) are innappropriate, but karakia of “a more general nature” (i.e. indigenous Maori religion) are acceptable. [sarcasm]Of course, I mean, that’s neutral[/sarcasm].
But here’s what caught my eye:
Mr Connelly said under the Bill of Rights Act the practice of requiring students to “opt out” of religious activities could be seen as discriminatory.
Instead the ministry was proposing schools required students who wanted to participate to “opt in” — similar to other voluntary activities such as school bands or sports teams.
The reason for this is simple: The Bill of Rights guarantees basic human rights, like freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of association. If students are, by default, expected to take part in religious activities unless they opt out, their right to freedom of religion is undermined.
This is where anti-religious hypocrisy enters the picture. The Ministry of Education, for many years, has tolerated students having no ability to opt out of situations that violate rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of association. But guess what. In New Zealand Universities, Student association/union membership is compulsory. In order for a tertiary student to not be a member, she must apply to be exempt on the grounds of consciencious objection. Even then, the association doesn’t have to let her abstain from membership. And even if they do, she is still forced to give her money to the association.
The Ministry of Education has known this for a long time, but now when it comes to Christian prayer, all of a sudden Mr Connolley is oh so concerned about the Bill of Rights not being upheld in educational institutions. They have utterly ignored every complaint about students being compelled to belong to a political organization, contary to the Bill of Rights and contrary to the United Nations declaration on human rights, but when it comes to a view they don’t share, heaven help anyone who tries to force it on people! Double standards are useful like that.