Friday, September 11, 2009


Last month a citizen-initiated referendum was held in New Zealand. The demand for the referendum rose out of change to the Crimes Act a year earlier. The amendment to section 59, limits the ability of parents to smack their children. The opposition to this law change was led by Christians. They collected over a 300,000 signatures on a petition to initiate the referendum. The topic of the referendum was as follows.

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
Voter turnout was 56.09%. 87.4 percent of valid votes opposed the statement. Despite this decisive signal from voters, the government is refusing to change the law. They claim that the law is working fine.

I did not vote in this referendum, and will not vote in any other. In my view, referendums are a humanist technique. The underlying principle is that if enough people vote for something, then it is morally correct. That is totally wrong. The majority is often wrong. The first referendum gave Israel a golden calf. Another famous referendum led to Jesus being crucified. Referendums do not have a great record from a Christian perspective, so I am not sure why Christians advocate referendums.

The irony is that although Christians scored a win with this referendum, they have actually undermined the Christian influence in New Zealand by legitimising a humanist method. They have gained operational victory, at the cost of a strategic defeat.

Christian leaders have not thought this through. They are now urging the government to listen to the "voice of the people" and change the law. That is a dangerous thing to be asking. In a few years time, the referendum might be about "banning the proclamation of the Christian gospel". Imagine what would happen, if the majority voted in favour of the referendum. If Christian leaders were consistent, they would have to urge the government to listen to the "voice of the people" and impose a ban on Christian preaching activities.

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