Religious bigots have had their day

Separation of church and state. You'd think it would be a given these days; a fundamental, accepted part of any true democracy. Yes, we once might have been a judeo-Christian culture and all that the label stood for (homophobia and chauvinism included). We might have been a place that allowed husbands to legally rape their wives; that sought full control over a woman's womb, that persecuted gays and lesbians. But, thank God, we aren't any more.

For some of us, though, such as that bastion of ethics, disgraced former Labour minister Taito Phillip Field, it seems believing in God should never have become optional. According to him, we shouldn't be supporting same sex marriage because it's a contradiction of God's word. Not only that, he reckoned the Labour Party had become "infested" by gays: "There is a perception that they are controlled by homosexuals," he said. "It's like a smell that won't go away."

Clearly, the man has no appreciation of irony. If he did, he'd know what smells isn't the Labour Party, but the idea someone recently released from jail on corruption and dishonesty convictions can feel free to lecture us all about morality. Who next? Graham Capill? I mean, if Mr Field is to be an example of what good, honest, God-fearing folk are all about, the more secular we are the better.

What also smells is that people like Field still think they should be able to foist their religious beliefs on everyone else. It's apparently not enough that they should choose to commit to the word of God; they won't be happy until the rest of us are forced to as well. In other words, forget about choice; believing in God should be compulsory. Who knows, maybe he thinks a church-run state with church-dictated values might turn a blind eye to his crookedness?

Someone needs to give Mr Field, and other, similarly backward figures such as Labour employment spokesman Su'a William Sio, the bad news. First off, this 2011 study totally contradicts their assertions about electorate sympathies towards same sex marriage. And, as for their much lamented church values? New Zealand is becoming increasingly secular. Religious-based weddings are dwindling, baptisms and christenings are down, as are church congregations. Same for the number of Kiwis who identify themselves as religious.

As a nation, we've adjusted to those changes. We've progressed (I would have said "evolved" but no point in annoying Team God any more than necessary). At least, most of us have progressed. The bleating we hear from Messrs Field and Sio and other assorted champions of intolerance only confirms there's still much work to be done. If they had their way, they'd like nothing more than to return us to the ignorance of the past.

For Field to attack Labour in such a manner is hardly surprising. Found wanting as a man of any credibility or standing, he's now showing his true colours as a bitter and twisted old bigot. Am not sure if he's noticed but even the Nats are more "liberal" than him. So much for learning anything from the US presidential election, where the party with the most inclusive policies prospered. Field, a Pacific Islander, would prefer to discriminate against minorities.

With all due respect to the man (and, to be honest, not much is due) most New Zealanders prefer to live in a secular community, free to make their own choices and arrangements without having to consider someone else's deity. William Sio should remember this, as should Damien O'Connor (he of the "gaggle of gays" outburst). We've only recently freed ourselves from the tyranny of religion. The vast majority of us have no wish to return.

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.

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