For a good 170 years, we as a people of prophecy have been proclaiming the closing signs of this world. Now we see those signs unfolding right before our eyes. With the current happenings in our land, it is changing from prophecy to present reality. We are a very different nation to what we were one and a half years ago.

We have experienced so many changes since the present government was elected. As the present pandemic caused a severe lock-down in March 2020, simultaneously parliament was passing laws to exterminate the unborn child right up to delivery date. Moves to legalise the free use of Cannabis were being voiced, but that move was defeated. Euthanasia and gay rights have also been thrashed around in our legislative halls of parliament – all these bringing unprecedented change.

Friday July 9, we had the opportunity to attend the 13th annual Family First Forum in Auckland. Family First is an active New Zealand Christian Lobby group who have become a strong voice for holding family values together and a strong voice against the recent changes in government and anything against the family unit that has made New Zealand what it has been and what it was founded upon – strong Christian values. This year's attendance was the largest they have ever had, just on 600 strong. These were people from mainly a Christian standing, wanting to hear a voice in regards to what is happening to our Christian heritage, our Christian morals and the destruction of them.

We have only attended one before this year's event, but the reason we have grown an interest in attending these forums, is that it gives us an idea of the interest and sentiments of those against the current changes in our land – and that awareness is obviously increasing if this 13th forum was the largest ever. It also keeps us up with the cutting edge of what is happening in government circles.

The first presentation was one of note and one that all Christians will have an interest. Paul Moon, professor at Auckland University of Technology, presented a well-balanced report on the pending hate-speech laws sounding in our halls of parliament at present. His main theme during his speech was what will the laws implicate? Surely if a law is going to be passed in our country, the citizens should know and understand what the law is, what it protects and what the boundaries are, what is legal or criminal, because this will affect every one of us in our country.

But there is a problem. One of the most disturbing realities for criminalising ‘hateful’ speech is that there is simply no universally agreed-upon definition of what constitutes ‘hate’ speech. Without a clear definition, how will you know when or if you have broken the law?

So from this, Professor Moon went on to find some specific examples of what hate speech could look like:

“No woman can dare step out of her home without the permission of her husband.” – Religious leader in New Zealand, 2016

“You're looking at homosexuals. Don't look too hard, you might catch AIDS.” — New Zealand MP, 1986

“Israel is a 'cancerous tumour' that has to be 'surgically removed.'” — Foreign Diplomat to New Zealand, 2017

“Zionist Jews are really bastards, they are worse than animals.” — Kia Ora Gaza

We would agree, these are pretty strong and caustic to fellow human beings.

Disharmonious Speech

The UN's Committee of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination recommend that New Zealand:

“Review the adequacy of current legislation in addressing and sanctioning hate speech and incitement to racial disharmony, including hateful and disharmonious speech targeted at the religion and beliefs of ethnic minority communities.” —S34(a)  Human Rights Commission Submission in relation to the twenty-first and twenty-second periodic review of New Zealand under the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, July 2017.

So from this, Professor Moon wanted some clarification on the boundaries of hate-speech, should it become law in New Zealand. His question was put via email, to the Human Rights Commission, April 30, 2018: “What is the threshold at which the criticism of a religion would constitute 'disharmonious speech?'

The email response from the Human Rights Commission to Professor Moon, also dated April 30, 2018 was: “Your question does not make sense!”

So surely, something has to make sense if it is going to be legislated. Well, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Attacks didn't have a clear-cut outcome of their inquiry either. In their report, dated November 2020, it was stated:

“The difference between legitimately criminalised hate-speech and a vigorous exercise of the right to express opinions is not easy to capture – at least with any precision – in legislative language.”

The Royal Commission then proposed the following provision to be inserted into the Crimes Act 1961.

“Inciting racial or religious disharmony. Every person commits an offense and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years who:

a)  With intent to stir up, maintain or normalise hatred against any group of persons in New Zealand on the ground of colour, race, or ethnic or national origins, or religion of that group of persons: and

b)  Says or otherwise publishes or communicates any words or material that explicitly or implicitly call for violence against or is offensive, threatening, abusive, or insulting to such a group of persons.”

While the Royal Commission tries to define what hate speech is, Professor Paul Moon states his research. “There is no jurisdiction in the world where a statute has been enacted that offers a clear definition of what hate speech is. Consequently, it is left to the police and the courts to determine. This raises the problem of citizens not knowing precisely where the boundary of criminality of speech begins.”

Free Speech

So does free speech have any value to us? Is it important that the population of a nation  have freedom of speech for the nation to progress on a healthy basis?

“Suppressing free speech is the intellectually impoverished and infantile response of those who have no better argument.” – Professor Paul Moon slide presentation

So where does hate-speech begin and end?

How are people offended?

Let's first look at the problem of offence. Being offended is increasingly used as a basis to suppress free speech.

However, being offended confers no rights on the offended to silence others, and does not mean that the offended person is correct.

Causing offence is increasingly being seen as a moral wrong. So where does this finish up? It most probably finishes up right here in these words. “Make no mistake - political activists and special interest groups will miss the important distinction between hate-speech and merely speech they hate and end up using such laws as tools of political intimidation to punish opponents and shut down debate in the marketplace of ideas.”

There have been a lot of questions in this editorial. We are struggling to get definite answers, as is Family First and many others – but it needs some, or how is there crime or no crime? Just have a look at the path of censoring speech and how futile it all is. This is what will meet our eyes more and more:

“In addition to reporting hate crime, please report all non-crime hate incidents.” — Public message by South Yorkshire Police, September 2018

A prayer in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that mentioned Jesus, was described by some as ‘offensive’, ‘horrific’ ‘Islamophobic’, ‘hate speech’, ‘weaponized speech’ and ‘racist’! — March 2019

Following the Christchurch attacks, Susan Devoy condemned those who had previously challenged her wish to remove references to Christmas to avoid offending people of other faiths: “If you were one of those commentators, do not write an op-ed today crying about how shocking yesterday's murders were. Because you helped make it happen. You helped normalise hatred in our country. You helped those murderers feel that they were representing the thoughts of ordinary New Zealanders.” — Dame Susan Devoy, 16 March 2019

So to read these statements, it seems to suppress freedom of speech only breeds confusion and hatred  – just what hate-speech is meant to suppress.

So does freedom of speech have any positives?

“Freedom of speech nourishes freedom of thought and is a vital tool for problem-solving”

What about Catholic Europe? Did freedom of speech have any effect ?

“Believers should have the Scriptures in a familiar language. Moses heard God's law in his own tongue.” —John Wycliffe, 1325-1384

“Love the truth. Let others have their truth, and the truth will prevail.” — Jan Hus 1369 - 1415

“I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than the pope.” — William Tyndale 1494 - 1536

“The conflict of ideas is at the heart of social progress. That conflict can only function with freedom of speech. The expression of deviance clarifies moral boundaries and encourages social development.” – Emile Durkheim 1858 - 1917

So freedom of speech has been invaluable for Protestant nations beginning over 500 years ago!

What is the 'formula' to free speech?

Well here is a brief but concise quote that is easy to remember when exercising the free right to expression; “Free Speech correlative with Responsible Speech with the aim of Establishing the Truth.”

Much dialogue between parties when constructive, gains so much progress. No two minds are alike, we all have input. So if all parties have something worth contributing, the right of free speech is not an end in itself, but the best means we have of reaching the truth.”

Professor Paul Moon summed up his presentation with very succinct and very well-chosen words: “Exercising free speech responsibly and thoughtfully – rather than suppressing it – is the best antidote to hate speech. Surrendering free speech – in any way – sacrifices intelligence to force. Free speech can be unpalatable, but the alternative – of the state controlling our speech – is immeasurably worse.”

He spoke in detail trying to explain the coming law, even contacting the Human Rights Commission to get some definite boundaries for the pending hate-speech laws, but could not get definite answers. The hate-speech laws still have a certain amount of obscurity about them and this was confirmed in a recent review in the New Zealand Herald, July 19, 2021.

The report stated: “New hate-speech law proposals from the Government are a bit confusing, and some of the debate so far seems to have muddied the waters, reducing something that began as an effort to combat racism, terrorism and hatred to name calling and taunts by politicians. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Justice Minister Kris Faafoi contradicted each other about what the proposals said, and Ardern has admitted the Government could have been clearer in its communications.” — Full report: Russell Palmer of RNZ, NZ Herald, July 19, 2021 - https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/proposed-hate-speech-laws-what-you-need-to-know/MVWR2D7MNZXJCD7FEUUUDQCH4A/

But in all this confusion, we do need to be somewhat aware of what is in-store if these laws are passed, as there some pretty severe consequences if the government sees fit to prosecute anyone they deem dangerous with their words. As Family First stated, “With the government releasing for public consultation its plan for laws governing hate-speech, including penalties that could range from three months to three years jail and fines up to $50,000, it is vital that families and faith communities understand what is really at stake with these proposals.”  But for the time being, we will have to be content with a bit of 'not knowing what we are in for!'

Some other people's thoughts on freedom of speech

Bruce Logan, Family First board member:
“I'm a Christian and I welcome criticism, satire and ridicule providing I have the freedom to respond. And we are confronted with a double whammy. Progressivism, with its trinity of diversity, inclusion and tolerance along with its doctrine of self-creating dignity, is developing into a civil religion establishing its own new rules of blasphemy. Hate speech legislation is hateful because it pretends to be what it is not. That is, it pretends to be about the protection of individual’s integrity without any clear idea of what that protection or integrity might be. Not one government representative, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, has broached anything like either a clear definition of it or a reason for it.”

Muriel Newman – 'Muzzling Free Speech'
“What the Prime Minister doesn't seem to understand is that threatening people so they are afraid to speak up will not create the socialist utopia she is planning for New Zealand. Instead, by imposing State control over free speech, she is practising totalitarianism. In his prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell warned, 'If you control the language, you control the mind'. The very last thing New Zealand needs is the chilling effect of hate speech police stifling our thoughts and monitoring our every utterance. Yet, if the law changes go ahead, the result will be that fewer Kiwis will openly speak their mind for fear the Police will come knocking on their door. It will indeed be an ominous day for New Zealand if the Police become the enforcement unit of ruling politicians and their activist allies against free citizens expressing contrary opinions…”

Chris Trotter – 'I Understand Why You Want To Do It Jacinda – But Don't'
“…Restricting the extension of the existing law to cover religion was not deemed to be sufficient. The strengthening of New Zealand's social cohesion would require the creation of a whole swathe of new “protected groups”. To bring the country together, the Royal Commission [of Inquiry Into The Christchurch Mosque Attacks] – and now, seemingly, the Labour Government – is intent on empowering the citizenry to send their neighbours to jail for up to three years for the “crime” of annoying them. One can only feel desperately sorry for the Police as women turn on men, Trans on TERFs, Maori on Pakeha, Christians on atheists, supporters of Palestine on supporters of Israel, Baby Boomers on Millennials, and Neoliberals on Marxists. The courts will be filled with angry and bitter complainants and defendants. Juries will be asked to solve problems philosophers have struggled with for centuries. Vast sums of money will be expended on lawyers. No one will emerge from the process emotionally unscathed. And all in the name of strengthening New Zealand's social cohesion! It won't work, Jacinda. No matter how much you'd like it to.” – All above statements from Family First Release, July 6, July 24, 2021

So as we conclude, there certainly are people who are not content to lay back and say nothing. There definitely are New Zealanders who are vocal and prepared to put their all behind what they believe. Where are we in all this? Should we become all political and start shouting at the government and making a spectacle of ourselves? No, but at least we should be concerned and be a voice in protest when we see the truth of God being turned into a lie (Romans 1:18-32).

So, how do we deal with all this? If we have uncertainties from the government, is there anywhere else? Only God’s word can give certainty how to speak and what to say.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also is full of words: and man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?” — Ecclesiastes 10:14

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.” — Ephesians 4:29

“We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order. We are not to say anything that would unnecessarily close up the way. We are to go forward in Christ’s name, advocating the truths committed to us.” — Acts of the Apostles, p.69

“In seeking to correct or reform others we should be careful of our words. They will be a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. In giving reproof or counsel, many indulge in sharp, severe speech, words not adapted to heal the wounded soul. By these ill-advised expressions the spirit is chafed, and often the erring ones are stirred to rebellion. All who would advocate the principles of truth need to receive the heavenly oil of love. Under all circumstances reproof should be spoken in love. Then our words will reform but not exasperate. Christ by His Holy Spirit will supply the force and the power. This is His work.

“Not one word is to be spoken unadvisedly. No evil speaking, no frivolous talk, no fretful repining or impure suggestion, will escape the lips of him who is following Christ. The apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, says, 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.' A corrupt communication does not mean only words that are vile. It means any expression contrary to holy principles and pure and undefiled religion. It includes impure hints and covert insinuations of evil.”
— Christ's Object Lessons, p.337