WelCom August 2021
New Zealand’s laws against hateful communications must adequately protect the most vulnerable, says the Wellington Archdiocesan Ecology, Justice and Peace (EJP) Commission.
The Ministry of Justice is currently seeking feedback on proposals to alter provisions in the Human Rights Act on incitement to hatred. The consultation process recognises the balance that needs to exist between protecting people from hatred and violence, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. Submissions are due by 6 August.
Archdiocese of Wellington EJP Advisor Lisa Beech says the Commission supports Proposals 1–4 of the consultation to update the legislation for the digital age and to extend coverage to multi-ethnic religious groups. These proposals come from the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks, which identified that only religious groups whose adherents are all of the same ethnicity are covered by current legislation.
‘Muslims and Christians have communities made up of many different ethnic groups, so extending that protection will better protect people who were the targets of the Christchurch terror attacks,’ she says. ‘It will also provide benefits for other religious groups including Christian communities.’
However, she says the Ministry of Justice’s Proposal 5 to introduce a new category of ‘incitement to discrimination’ needs a longer conversation to ensure it is even-handed in relation to all protected groups.
Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti recognises the context of growing racism, hostility and violence, and asks us to re-examine how we communicate with each other. He says even Catholic groups can get caught up in ‘networks of verbal violence’ and asks us to replace confrontation and abuse with listening, dialogue and encounter.
Lisa Beech says Catholic social teaching recognises that rights also carry responsibilities. ‘The right to freedom of expression comes with the responsibility to use that freedom appropriately with respect for the rights and freedoms of others.’