(National Party media release)

National will firmly oppose Labour’s new hate speech law threatening to muzzle speech that is critical to a free and vibrant democracy, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“New legislation released today means it will be a crime to bring contempt or ridicule upon any group due to their “religious belief” which risks criminalising speech that is part and parcel of public discourse.

“The Human Rights Act currently protects groups from contempt and ridicule due to their colour, race, or ethnic or national origin.

“However extending this to religious belief, without any additional safeguards for freedom of speech, risks deterring and criminalising robust debate about religion.

“While freedom of speech enables religions to persuade and convert people to their worldview, freedom of speech also enables robust criticism of religious belief.

“The proposed change raises serious concerns:

  1. Will there be impacts on the survivors and critics of religious communities like Gloriavale?
  2. Is artistic expression, like the Book of Mormon musical, now banned?
  3. Are political parties whose views are grounded in religious beliefs subject to these new protections?
  4. Are groups like those opposing vaccinations, some based on genuinely-held religious beliefs, now protected from ridicule?
  5. What constitutes a religion – Scientology, Heaven’s Gate?

“More speech and debate is the best response to speech that people disagree with – not bans and police investigations.

“This law change strikes at the heart of our liberal democracy and National will, as it always has, jealously guard New Zealanders’ cherished and important right to freedom of speech.

“National will oppose Labour’s hate speech laws every step of the way.

“Immediately after forcing through Parliament its unpopular Three Waters law, Labour is now pursuing another of its ideological pet projects.”

ACT has expressed the same sentiments —Eds