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Agenda Interview with Bishop Brian Tamaki



TV One’s Agenda Interview with Bishop Brian Tamaki (26 May 07) Transcript

Are All Religions Equal?

Interviewer - Lisa Owen

LISA Next week Helen Clark will host the third Asia Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue at Waitangi. The aim of the forum is to promote religious tolerance and understanding and as such Clark will deliver a draft statement on New Zealand's own religious diversity, that statement says that New Zealand has no official or established religion and this has upset some people who believe that New Zealand is very much a Christian country. Destiny Church is organising a Christian rally to coincide with the forum and its leader Bishop Brian Tamaki joins me now. Good morning. Do you think all religions are equal in this country?


Well I just think we have a strong Christian heritage in New Zealand and we ought not to be ashamed of that or backward in being forward about courageously saying who we are and what our national identity is as far as it goes with religion and that’s Christianity. So we're saying no this is a Christian country, it has an established Christian heritage over 170 years that underpins much of our constitutional, political, judicial and social arrangements, so it just amuses me to see that the head of state Prime Minister Helen Clark is going to a religious interfaith forum and talk about religion not mixing with politics, here we have politics now coming into religion to present New Zealand as religiously neutral to what is mostly the Muslim and Hindu countries.

LISA What then does your stand mean for those other religions, if you think that this country is a Christian country it should be declared that, what implications would that have for other religions in your view?

BRIAN Well it will have implications because if we're secure enough to say well we recognise our Christian heritage and so establish that, then the outworking of that is going to be some certain conditions that apply for instance and I would put this out very straight and straightforward about this, that the Quran for instance would not have the same place or position as the Bible when it comes to swearing in parliament of our oaths of allegiance, and neither do I see that we have to extract our Christian god, Jesus Christ, out of prayer so that we don’t offend other religions or people's beliefs, that’s just one part of it.

LISA So given that perhaps some of the religions we see now in New Zealand are arriving through immigration, what's your stand on people coming into the country, immigrants who are practising different faiths.

BRIAN We're open, everybody's welcome and people have the freedom of religious choice and we're not imposing our Christianity or our beliefs on people but I think it's good enough to respect and honour our Christian heritage, establish that and then people come on those terms, welcome but you're coming to a Christian country, and I think most New Zealanders agree with that, that this is a Christian country.

LISA You're welcome but you can't practise your faith as freely as you might want to?

BRIAN Well if you officially recognise our Christian heritage and our Christianity as being our national identity our founding religion then that would have obvious consequences, so the Bible would then be sworn upon in the swearing in and our prayers would retain Jesus Christ at the end of it. So there would have to be those understandings and so we're not going to remove those just because other religions come and we're insecure about our beliefs and our religious identity. If you go to a Muslim country, if you go to a Hindu country I respect the religion and I accept that, I don’t go there wanting to remove their symbols and begin to take out Allah out of their prayers and put Jesus Christ in there, that ain't gonna happen, and I won't see the next day through by the way.

LISA What's the difference between what you're suggesting that you'd like to see here than say here than say enforcing Sharia law?

BRIAN We're not enforcing it, we're recognising and establishing what has already been a mainstay of our country's religious institutions, Christianity and I think because this government has particularly gone out of its way to attempt to tamper with that I think that we should as a country as a whole should be discussing it together and saying well do we and should we now establish Christianity as our official religion.

LISA Let's bring our panel in on this conversation, going first to Duncan Wilson.

DUNCAN Can you just begin by clarifying the relationship between the Destiny Party and Phillip Field's proposed party because it seems that these two different vehicles are diverging and you're saying now as I understand it that you'll stand in 08 regardless of Taito Phillip Field, he's also got his own vehicle and he's trying to get the support as well. What's the relationship like between you and him?

BRIAN Well that hasn’t got much to do with our Christian heritage has it, this is another question it's a political one, I think we just need to get back to what the issue is here that we see now politics beginning to enter into religion and Helen Clark is doing this next week on Tuesday at Waitangi our birthplace as a nation. I think most New Zealanders ought to be aware of what's really happening here.

GUYON But you're wanting to put religion into politics yourself, that’s the idea, you're in this poll here, we were talking about this before, you're starting to get some support, you're trying to get into parliament aren’t you?

BRIAN Let me put it like this, I think now many New Zealanders and the public are aware now we have a moral crisis, we have a booze culture problem, we have a drug problem, we have family breakdown and I think it's fair to say that we lack good traditional family values in parliament and probably in society in general, so I think it's reasonable to expect that most people are saying now well if it takes a religion or a belief or a faith or whatever it is, but I think we need some good family values come back into our homes so that we can cut down some of the crime and the dysfunction we're seeing in society.

DUNCAN Your comments on values though they speak to say New Zealand First concerns would you think of approaching that party and going through them?

BRIAN Well that’s just something that we're not even considering at this stage and I think the importance here now is to see that our Christian heritage is in jeopardy and that’s most important because we're dealing with society as a whole with the breakdown again in family, and the problem, I mean you see it in the paper today about our booze culture problem, our drug problem, and our crime rates, you know you’ve got to understand something here that I think it's time that we realised that we need some good traditional family values established again, and that comes about by having a faith.

LISA Mr Tamaki though is the Christian values in jeopardy, you talk about wanting to neutralise the country religiously but this draft statement acknowledges the role of Christianity in the foundation of this country and aims …

BRIAN No it doesn’t acknowledge the role of it because it says in the statement …

LISA In the preamble it does.

BRIAN In the first statement it says it is not an official or established religion. Let's be straight and clear here if I said that in street language it says that we are religiously neutral and it's basically leaving a void for other religions of this world which they would take up readily to come in and establish yourself which they already have. I'm saying they're welcome and everybody has a choice …

LISA If they take second place. They're welcome if they take second place. Can we just be clear on that?

BRIAN Yes it does in some aspects. Not all, they're still free to choose their religion and their belief but if we recognise what's already in existence our Christian heritage established that, then obviously that’s going to have some outcomes in our parliamentary processes, constitution and our social arrangements.

LISA Isn't that why perhaps there is a need for a statement on religious tolerance, the view that you’ve expressed there that some religions should take a second place.

BRIAN I think Christianity is one of the most tolerant religions on the earth, right now people are free to come and establish their beliefs in a Christian culture, but if you and I went to a Muslim country tomorrow I can assure you I could not set up a Christian church and live to the end of the week.

LISA But we're talking about how this country should be run, so what about the 50% or almost 50% of the population who are not Christian?

BRIAN I don’t think that holds water because if you took this out to the people, people are saying now and even though they may not be a Christian or attend church they would say I believe New Zealand's a Christian nation.

LISA Alright thank you very much for joining us this morning, Brian Tamaki.

VIDEO LINK (Click here to view video of interview)

A peaceful rally to uphold NZ’s Christian heritage will coincide with the Asia Pacific Inter-religious Forum on Tuesday 29th May at Waitangi. Participants are being asked to gather at the Ngapuhi Grounds immediately south of Waitangi bridge before 12pm (midday).

Event details can be viewed on

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