Religious freedom, hate speech, adoption, child abuse

Same-sex adoption, religious freedoms and child-abuse petitions are before Parliament at the moment.

Reforming law in relation to hate speech offences is also on the agenda.

If the hate speech law passes, offenders will face a larger maximum sentence than if they were found guilty of rioting, assaulting a child or providing explosives to commit a crime!


The Transforming Justice Foundation’s petition focused on ensuring witnesses give evidence in child abuse cases.

Scott Guthrie led the petition. He says the silence around the 2006 deaths of 11-week old twins Chris and Cru Kahui show why the law needs changing to ensure witnesses give evidence.

The family initially did not cooperate with police investigations.

Although the twins’ father was charged with murder, he was later acquitted. No other charges were laid.

Guthrie’s petition asks  the House of Representatives to:

“amend the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to remove the right to refrain from making any statement for persons who are arrested or detained on charges relating to child abuse.”

When presenting the 4548-signature petition to the Justice Select Committee, Guthrie said refraining from making a statement, or the right to silence, allows people to keep quiet when questioned by police.

Nor can a defendant be compelled to be a witness in the prosecution of any criminal law.

These rights shouldn’t be allowed for any witness to cases involving child abuse, violence, or death, he argued.

If we can remove the right to silence in some cases of serious fraud, surely we can look at that for child abuse, he said.

Religious freedoms

In the petition she led for the Barnabas Fund, the Fund’s Chief Executive’s Steph Johnston told the Justice Committee that protecting religious freedoms needs reviewing as New Zealand becomes more secular.

“People who have chosen a form of religion must not be marginalised or disadvantaged,” she said.

Johnston’s 4872-signatory petition seeks a formal government review of two issues:

  • how well the seven fundamental aspects of freedom of religion are being protected in New Zealand today and
  • whether any group, for example, Christians, may be falling through the cracks and their rights neglected, sidelined or undermined.”


Christian Newman’s petition asks Parliament to “amend the Adoption Act 1955 to simplify and speed up the process for adoption”.

Newman spoke to the Justice Committee about his 32,239-signature petition that covers a range of issues including amending the Act to:

  • enable male-same-sex couples’ eligibility to in vitro fertilisation treatment funding
  • allow intending parents’ legal rights to be automatically updated at the point the child is born
  • include a child’s right from birth to know their parents, birth and biological, and to recognise the rights of children to know their genetic origins.

Hate speech

Parliament has released details of a Cabinet Paper about hate speech law reforms.

The paper proposes hate speech offences be moved from the Human Rights Act to the Crimes Act.

Penalties could see offenders facing three years’ imprisonment.

Protections against incitement and hate speech would be extended to include rainbow communities, religious minorities and those targeted for age or disability.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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