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The State, Religion and Belief


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Published in: Spiritual, Health & Medicine
  • Diversityforum2011 are you the author of 'The State, Religion and Belief' paper and the 'Pacific Languages Framework Factsheet'? and is the Factsheet related to 'The State, Religion and Belief' essay? The reason I am asking is because I printed off both documents. I am a college student at the University of Cincinnati-clermont branch and am currently taking a sociology course called Glocal Communities. Right now in my class we are working on a 'group' (Individual really) project. And I felt like your essay and you could actually be of some help to me. This is what my project is verbatum. We are to 'Choose a society or cultural group different from your own for study, and one topic area. (our group chose New Zealand) Each individual should gather information from at least 3 reputable sources, and turn in a typed paper of at least 6 pages in length. There are 7 topic areas; family institution, political institution, educational institution, religious institution, medical institution, and broad cultural features. I chose religious institution, and for my part it says,' How the religious institution operates. This should discuss and include STATUSES and ROLES and any patterns of interaction or inequality you can find.' I was thinking that you might have some insight into helping me to do this. I want to of course do well in this course and I want to really be able to explain and understand my assignment. We have to present them to our class. I was thinking that maybe we could do a sort of interview or just use you as a source of reference if possible and if you're willing. We could do it through email even so that way I have it all for documentation. I would even email you a hard copy of what my assignment is in full detail rather than trying to fit it all into this little box. If you could get back to me as soon as possible that would be wonderful, my email is
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The State, Religion and Belief

  1. 1. The State, Religion and Belief<br />Paul Morris<br />Victoria University of Wellington<br />Diversity Forum, Hamilton,<br />22 August 2011<br />In its recent Review of Human Rights in 2010, the Human Rights Commission noted that:<br />‘New Zealand has no state religion, and church and state institutions are separate. <br />In legislation and policy, the State respects freedom of thought, conscience and <br />religion. There are few constraints on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or <br />beliefs. Elements of New Zealand’s Christian heritage are reflected in public life: <br />for example, the Christian calendar is used so that the Christian festivals of Easter <br />and Christmas are observed as public holidays, and Christian prayers often form a <br />part of public ceremonials. There is also a degree of statutory recognition of Māori <br />spiritual beliefs, which are inextricably connected to Māori culture. Any group <br />based on either religious or ethical belief can set up and operate in New Zealand <br />without legal constraints or state interference, while still required to conform to <br />the law like everyone else. Like other groups in society, those based on religious <br />or ethical belief have the right to publicly influence the political process and <br />societal norms in light of their values, within the bounds of the law. Parents are <br />free to direct the religious and moral education of their children, and religious <br />minorities are able to profess and practise their own religion’. <br />The relationship between the state and religion is still hotly debated, and the increased religious diversity of New Zealand society means that people will continue to discuss such issues as: Should the state observe religious rituals?; Should Parliament open with a Christian prayer, other prayer or any prayer at all?; Should public events acknowledge the diversity of religion and belief?; Should the state recognise and support religious activities?; Should the state promote interfaith dialogue? This paper is intended as a contribution to these discussions and the development of guidelines on the relationship between the state and religion and belief.<br />It seems that there are three normative myths about the state and religious diversity in New Zealand. First, there is the historically pervasive myth of the ‘benign Christian state’. This narrative understands New Zealand to be a ‘Christian nation’. Christianity is an integral and essential element undergirding and legitimating the state. The colony/country was ‘discovered’ and settled by Christians who brought Christianity to the ‘native’ population. In fact, in this version of events, Christian missionaries played a central role in ensuring Māori support for the Treaty of Waitangi. Christianity is New Zealand’s ‘de facto’ and majority religion and supplies much of the structure and framework for the nation’s moral guidance and values. In 1854 at the first session of New Zealand House of Representatives, while it was decided not to commence proceedings with an Anglican prayer a Christian ecumenical prayer was agreed upon, creating the basis for a ‘Christian’ nation. Christianity has generally been very tolerant to the faiths of others and this very tolerance itself is a value deriving from the Christian ethical tradition. The Christian majority has been tolerant and even welcoming of those of other faiths and it is these other faiths that find their ‘home’ in Christian New Zealand. The State, in this schema, was founded on Christian principles and there is often a tension between these underlying and contemporary liberal values. These are manifest periodically in response to legislation such as civil unions, prostitution reform, or the reform of Section 59, and at times of heightened political awareness, such as the 2005 election. Christianity has played and continues to play a vital role in the development of a stable and secure religiously diverse New Zealand.<br />Secondly, the story of secular New Zealand, this myth understands the New Zealand state to be fundamentally secular, that is, the state should be entirely and completely separate from religion and free from the influence of all religious communities. This version entails a revisionist history that emphasises the secularity of the New Zealand past so that New Zealanders have never subscribed to an established or state religion and in fact have actively resisted such efforts. New Zealanders have had a long and rich history of secularists and non-religious leaders and commentators debating religious authorities and emphasising rationality over piety and religious adherence. The secular state is equally indifferent to all religious traditions. The secular myth stresses the historical vestiges of the dominant Christian faith and the need to be vigilant against granting special dispensations or benefits to any religion. In relation to religious diversity, the secularist myth-maker insists that it is only the secular state can vouchsafe the religious freedoms of a religious diverse population and only the application of secular reason that can ensure a harmonious diverse society. <br />Finally, there is the human rights diversity version. This version claims that the very beginnings of New Zealand history evidence recognition of cultural and religious diversity and of the right of different peoples to manifest their differences. The Fourth Article of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 added at the request of Bishop Baptiste Pompallier recognised both the diversity of Christianity – Anglican, Roman Catholic and Wesleyan – and Māori spiritual and religious traditions. This article guaranteed religious freedom for all in the new nation, including ritenga Māori or customary ritual and practice. The nation itself is based on this recognition of diversity and the acknowledgement of the right to manifest such diversity as part of this society. The state is the legal guarantor of cultural and religious rights, as part of an international network of such states, and religious diversity is an important site of diverse beliefs, values and practices. Biculturalism becomes, or is becoming, the foundation for an ever more deeply embedded multiculturalism. Here too, the state is secular but not in the sense of the absolute separation of religion and the state but rather in the ideal of the state treating all faiths equally and privileging none. <br />Each of the three is, of course, just that, a myth containing truths but selective and partial truths about our history and present reality. <br />Before returning to focus on the New Zealand context we need to ask about the nature of the modern state and the options for the relationship between state and religion. We all live in nation-states in a world of sovereign nation-states. Nation-states are still being born. Only last month the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) separated from Sudan to become the 193rd state in the United Nations. It was fascinating to witness the formal and symbolic birth of a new nation, complete with brass band and choir, national anthem and flag and all conducted in the national language. Within the nearly 200 nation states are more than 5,000 ethnic groups and nearly 7,000 language groups clearly indicating that many states have diverse populations, in fact, all states have majority and minority religious and cultural diversities. <br />The nation-state is a relatively new way of organising ourselves and is part of the grand narrative of modernity. The philosopher, Hegel, considered the modern state as the very pinnacle of human collective existence. This new mythology of state and citizen, self-determining, sovereign and autonomous, developed in Europe in the 17th century, has come to be the globally predominant form of human polity. The language of this new form effectively replaces God’s sovereignty with that of the state - and the individual, although the latter was to be given up in the interests of the state. The ecclesia became the demos - the body of Christ, the body politic, and the mysterium of communion, when the individual soul participated in the collective and divine body, became the citizen’s political participation in the processes of the new politics. <br />This new Augustinianism was supplemented with other myths such as that of pre-Westphalian religious violence only overcome by the separation of state and church in the new modern, post-Westphalian nation-state. The dualism of state and citizen gave rise to the dualism of private and public and the inclusion, at least in theory, of religion in the private sphere in the revolutionary nation-states of France and America, although the privatisation of religion was extended to many of the states that followed. It is easy to forget just how recent these arrangements are and how ill fitting they often seem to be to the reality of the plethora of identities that animate real lives.<br />Religion plays an absolutely central role in these ‘sacred’ stories of the rise of the new states. So, for example, the new state of South Sudan is predominantly Christian as opposed to Muslim majority (Northern) Sudan, although the RSS is, in reality like all states ethnically and religiously diverse, with significant Muslim and animist minorities. The foundational legislation, a requirement of every new nation-state, entails legislating on religion. There are no exclusively secular states although many have incorporated the separation of state and religion into these basic foundational laws, in that all states treat different historic faith communities in different ways, so that even the radically secular French State funds Catholic schools and institutions. It is the majority faith that benefits from these arrangements, so that its sacred calendar becomes the civic calendar of the new state and selected traditions become part of the civic national, state life. One of the antinomies of democratic politics is that a minority – majority religious division will almost inevitable mean that a democratic decision is simply the imposition of a majority view and power over minority positions. This is proving very hard to overcome and re-think in terms of justice and equity. <br />Modern nation states have dealt with religion in a variety of different ways. Some states have a state church, that is, a form of Christianity specific to the particular nation. For example, the Scandinavian countries have state (Lutheran) churches directly under state authority, as an arm, as it were, of the state, itself. A second model is that of an established church such as the Church of England, in England. The Anglican Church is the default religion, as it were, so that officially everyone is Anglican except those declared not so. The United Kingdom is not a theocracy although the Head of State is also the head of the established church but it does mean that Anglicanism has a privileged place, as do other forms of Christianity indirectly. <br />The extension of the nation-state form across the globe has meant that different majority religions are incorporated into the legislation of different polities, so Judaism is privileged in Israel, Islam in Malaysia, and Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Many states include religion as part of their identity such as Argentina and Roman Catholicism and although many have formally adopted the separation of state and religion they continue to fund denominational schools as in Brazil and Canada.<br />The US is one of the models for the secular state with its First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly forbidding the federal government from enacting any law respecting a religious establishment. This has been interpreted as granting political freedom from religious authority and personal freedom of religion. At the individual state level, however, there is local legislation that allows for all sorts of privileged arrangements, such as Article III of the Massachusetts constitution (2010), ‘... the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily’. Other examples include the eight states where atheists are not allowed to hold public office (Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas).<br />Many nation states are constitutionally secular, that is they have no established or state religion and do not allow for such, these include: Albania; Armenia; Australia; Azerbaijan; Brazil; Bolivia; Canada; Chile; Cuba; People's Republic of China; Republic of China (Taiwan); East Timor; Ecuador; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Hungary; India; Ireland; Italy; Jamaica; Japan; Kosovo; Laos; Lebanon; Mauritius; Mexico; Montenegro; Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nigeria; North Korea; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia; Serbia; Slovenia; Singapore; South Africa; South Korea; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Syria; Turkey; Tanzania; Uruguay; Venezuela; and, Vietnam.<br />Roman Catholicism is the state religion of Costa Rica, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, and Vatican City while Andorra, Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Italy, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain all privilege Catholicism in their constitutions although not as a state religion. The Philippines is de fact Catholic although it has a Muslim geographical majority area in the south, Mindanao. Eastern Orthodoxy is the state religion of Greece while Lutheran is the state religion of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and until 2000 Sweden too, although there the Swedish Lutheran church is now the ‘national’ but no longer state church. <br />Islam (Sunni) is the official religion of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. (Shi'a) Islam is the official religion of Iran and Islam (Ibadi) of Oman. Islam is the official religion also of Kuwait, Yemen, and Bahrain, where there are Sunni and Shi’a. Buddhism is the state religion in Bhutan and Cambodia and highly privileged in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Nepal was the only Hindu nation-state until 2006.<br />There are other issues of the definition of religions, in terms of the politics of legitimate religions. For example, in China five religions are officially recognised (Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism) and while these are afforded a degree of freedom, those that fall outside of the list have no legal protection at all. In Indonesia, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Protestantism are officially recognised with Confucianism a recent sixth addition. Also, Israel with its thirteen acknowledged ‘religious communities’ - Judaism, and nine Christian churches (inherited from the British Mandate 1922-1947) plus, four more added under Israeli law - Islam, the Druze (formerly under Islamic jurisdiction), the Evangelical Episcopal Church, and the Bahá'í. Each religious community has its own religious courts as part of the official state court system for matters of personal status. These political definitions of what constitutes legitimate religion enshrine religious freedom for some and deny it to others.<br />To sum up this first part of the paper: (1) the majority of nation-states are formally secular but privilege the historical majority religion, at the state or sub-state level. This privileging is almost always prejudicial for minority faiths and democratic processes can simply reaffirm historic prejudices under a new guise; (2) many states live with the contradictions between constitutional laws and de facto prejudicial realities; (3) religion itself is often compromised under the sovereignty of the nation-state and reduced to something new and insufficiently studied, religion subordinated to state politics - civic religion or? <br />In the second part of this paper, before returning to New Zealand but definitely en route home, as it were, I want to discuss more recent developments in the corporatizing of the state, the new relationships between the state and religions, and the implications that this has for religions. The modern bureaucratic state, so feared by Max Weber, exercises its tungsten cage on us all. But alongside this, three new political models have come to increasingly impact on religions: (1) neo-liberal ideologies with the state as purchaser of services from competitive bidders as it attempts to limit the deficiencies of the statutory provision of welfare; (2) the growth of the notion of civil or civic society as an integral designation of the collectivities that constitute the state’s citizenry; and, (3) the politics of minority group recognition where the churches and religious groups attempt to secure recognition and resources and to promote their particular ‘lifestyle’ or sub-culture. <br />Under (1) churches, religious groups, or to use the US designation, faith-based organisations, have been increasingly co-opted as the providers of services competitively tendered for. This has entailed the development of new wings, new skills and effectively marketised elements of religions. Religious communities become just another interest group seek a share of public funding either as charity or service provider. It has also meant that in some areas of activity religious groups complete against each other for contracts and a share of funding. Effectively religious groups join the list of recognised or acknowledged providers along with other NGOs, charities and interests groups. This has transformed the activities of some religious groups caught up endlessly in the cycle of tendering and contracting, cutting costs, but more importantly tailoring what they offer to the dictates of available funds. For some groups such as the Salvation Army more and more of their activities are tied up in compliance, contracting and short term responses to politically changing external funding requirements. In order to succeed new alliances have been forged most often motivated by pragmatic rather than theological grounds. This new mode of state-religion relationship is increasing in significance but urgently needs to be thought through by religious groups in religious rather than seculae contractual terms. <br />Civil society is simply what left when you remove the institutions of state and the market from a nation-state, that is, the sum total of voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and other institutions and groups. These, in reality, are not additional to state and market but essential to the function of both and what we refer to as ‘society’. Recently, I served on a ministerial committee looking at the voluntary sector and was amazed at the number of such groups and the huge amount of work they do in keeping it all together. I’ll return to this briefly below. Here, it is important to note that as political theorists have raised the significance of civil society so politicians and others (advertisers seek to sell to the ‘demographic’) have sought to access these groups and harness them in the fulfilment of political objectives. Religious groups constitute a significant element within most civil societies and have been courted in new ways for varieties of programmes and mobilized in support of such. Again, the terms of state-religions relationships are determined by the state on its terms.<br />The wide-scale migration from Africa and Asia to the West, from the south to the north and from the east to the west and greatly enhanced the religious and cultural diversity of the so-called, developed Western nation-states. Along with trying to continually respond to the ravages and vicissitudes of the bipolar late capitalist system, managing cultural and religious diversity are the two dominant political issues of our time. This brings us to (3) the politics of recognition and resources, where groups commit themselves to securing public recognition of their distinctiveness and difference and demand that the state (and the market) recognise their difference as a minority and acknowledge that their particular ‘chosen’ way of life, mores, and customary practices are legitimate and an integral part of civil society. This recognition as Habermas notes is twofold, political and public recognition and recognition as reflected in resources. These two do not always work in tandem and resource-less recognition often awaits the resources. Religious communities are acknowledged in interfaith activities and civil interfaith functions, in legislation, both positively as the right to recognition and negatively as the right to freedom from discrimination. <br />There is a fourth shared factor that has been more evident since the post-9/11 focus on terror, and in particular since 7/7, and the recent revival of an aggressive and irresponsible form of late capitalism, and that is the growing concern with social cohesion and social inclusion and a deep perplexity that we are no longer sure what keeps the diverse segments of society together at all. Central city riots across Britain as young people destroy ‘their own communities’. The alienation by radical and rugged winners and losers capitalism of greater and greater numbers across the globe coupled with fears of communities imploding in violence, resonates with the 1930s and the growing attractiveness of the rhetoric of ‘discipline’ and ‘control’. What has all this to do with religion? Governments are discovering that religions build and foster social cohesion, and do much to mop up the failures of increasingly starved statutory welfare systems. Religion is to be the new partner is ensure that the centrifugal forces of the market don’t damage the customer bases overly. Muslim communities are being charged with ensuring that their communities are both socially cohesive and promote the wider social cohesion. The importance of social cohesion is that it is a prismatic way of talking about essential political stability and the recognition of the centrality of religion in all this.<br />Finally, to New Zealand, a secular state with a Christian minority and history, a growing ‘no religion’, in terms of affiliation sector, and increase numbers of religious and communally active non–Christians but from a low numerical base. Constitutionally we do not have an established or state religion although some have agreed with this but consider that we are ‘de facto’ a Christian nation. This is intriguing but hard to justify except on rhetorical grounds. What is clear is that this non-establishmentarianism runs deep in this country and has periodically reappeared to limit religious authority. But it is equally clear that Christians have dominated the cultural, social and political life of this country. The churches, however, have a long history of lost causes from prohibition to opposing homosexual law reform and same sex civil unions. The churches’ influence has been steadily declining since the 1950s when measured in traditional ways but has curiously increased in terms of the new factors I have outlined above. But we don’t always see or understand the implications of the new state-religion relationships. <br />New Zealand also has a bicultural legacy and reality. The Treaty of Waitangi, in spite of considerable counter-forces, is becoming ever more deeply embedded in our education system, politics, communal life, and self-identity. While the Treaty itself grants a religious freedom that extends beyond the Christian churches, the majority of those mentioned and involved, at least on the European side, were Christians. It is also true that the churches largely failed to honour the Treaty and increasingly came to identify with settler concerns and issues. Biculturalism is a living issue for us and opposition to the inclusion of Māori Tikanga in the civic religion of New Zealand is met with energy and debate. So Whanganui, where the Council commences its meetings with karakia is currently the subject of a complaint to the Human Rights Commission. In my recent work on religious diversity in the New Zealand workplace I was struck by the vehement objections to the inclusion of karakia and waiata in places of work. One government ministry is currently writing a karakia policy document for discussion and there is an evident need for guidance and guidelines. How far should Māori Tikanga and Māori Ritenga be a part of our public and civil life? How are we to decide on this? Should religious arguments have a legitimate place in the public sphere? Why was the reporting of Bishop Tamaki’s blessing of leading Māori politicians reported as if it transgressed some basic New Zealand law of decency? Is Māori civil religion religion at all?<br />What role should Christianity play in our developing civil religion? Is it appropriate for a state funeral to have a Buddhist element a happened with that of Sir Ed Hilary? Our Parliament still commences with a patently Christian prayer. The current speaker is very wedded to the words used since 1854 even if they do not quite match his present beliefs. My suggestion is that the prayer be retained but that a several junctures in the year guests from other faiths offer other prayers that reflect our religious diversity. <br /> <br />The state in New Zealand currently supports parochial (integrated) education and directly and indirectly funds a plethora of religious based activities, is this permissible in a secular state? While the state treats religions largely equally, with a persistent Christian bias, should it acknowledge their religious features not just view them as NGOs and charities? Is it right that religions should conform to state regulation and the state definition of religion? Religious communities need to discuss and debate this intra and inter-religiously and consider the price of their relationships with the state on its terms.<br />How seriously are we to take the discourse of the decline of social cohesion? Are we too only a small step away from rioting and looting? Our teenage unemployment rates are also perilously high. Do we need religions to help create robust and lasting social bonds? The state has been involved with promoting interfaith dialogue at home and overseas, is this appropriate? <br />My intention in this address is to provoke debate and discussion. My own view is that we are nearing a critical threshold that will test our own social cohesion and highlight the extent of our levels of social exclusion and that a revived debate about the state and religions will be required to address this fully and effectively. The new contact of religions with the state on their terms, nothing short of a redefinition of religion, is a two-edged sword and religious communities need to further deliberate on the terms of their engagement with the state. The failure of liberalism to develop sustainable values is a growing concern.<br />The record in New Zealand so far has been good but is it self-sustaining? What we need now is a new dialogue with government about the contribution of religious communities to the state and its stability and of ways of fostering further stability between groups and between the state and religions.<br />