The Society commends Stephen Franks, ACT MP, for raising serious concerns in parliament on the 15th of February 2005 over clauses in a Government Bill – the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Amendment Bill – during its crucial third reading stage. It commends him for submitting during the committee stages of the third reading, six key amendments seeking to: protect the right of free speech, prevent key findings in a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal in the Living Word case being rendered obsolete, and safeguarding the real intent of the principal Act to only deal with material that the “overwhelming majority of the public” find offensive “by use of offensive expression,” rather than “by reason of disagreement with the subject matter or argument or propositions expressed.” (The Court’s decision in Living Word led to the un-banning of two Christian opinion-piece videos critical of the promiscuous homosexual lifestyle and the aggressive homosexual political agenda).
The Society wants to know why the United Future Party did not support these outstanding amendments to the Bill, lending weight in the minds of some, to a growing feeling of discontent (already expressed by some of the Party’s core Christian supporters in the media), that its leader is merely the “glove puppet” of the Labour Party and may be stifling the free expression of genuine dissent among his predominantly Christian caucus. The Party needs to fully explain to its members and the public its failure to support Mr Frank’s amendments. (As a coalition partner to Labour it only committed itself to supporting it on issues of supply and confidence). Every other party in the House fully supported Mr Frank’s amendments with the exception of bed-fellows Labour and United Future. Marc Alexander the United Future member responsible for pushing the Bill through for his party scoffed at the amendments as an exercise in political grandstanding.
The FVPC Amendment Bill, which had as its main focus increasing the maximum jail sentence that can be imposed against those convicted of producing, trading and possessing child pornography or extreme images such as sexual torture and snuff movies, was passed by a 110 to 9 majority in the House on 16 February 2005.
Mr Franks quite rightly, applauded the tightening of the law dealing with child porn and genuinely “objectionable” content, but focused on the ‘stalking horse’ present in the Bill: the widening of the criteria under which a publication’s content can be considered “objectionable” by the inclusion of, as one of the criteria, content considered to “encourage [young people and/or children] to treat or regard themselves or others as degraded, dehumanised or demeaned”; even if unaccompanied by content dealing with any of the five “gateway” provisions in the principal Act – sex, crime, cruelty, violence and horror.
The amended redefinition of “objectionable” deliberately by-passes these five very broad censorship jurisdictional “gateways” clearly set out under section 3(1) of the principal Act, empowering the Chief Censor’s Office and the Film and Literature Board of Review (in cases where a review has been sought by an applicant against the Classification Office decision) to impose restrictions on material, based solely on subject matter or argument or propositional expression that an aggrieved person(s) finds demeaning, degrading or dehumanising to himself/herself or others (in the “class” of young persons or children).
The Society’s secretary David Lane says that “the problematic amendments highlighted by Mr Franks do widen the censorship gateways allowing ‘aggrieved’ persons to raise all manner of complaints against the expression of opinion contained in a publication and seek to have them restricted to curtail free speech, motivated perhaps by their extreme political or social agenda.”
The Amended Act states:
“New clause 4A recognises areas where the ability to impose age restrictions is desirable but the coverage of the current law is less certain [i.e. the content does not fit within the five "gateways"]. It empowers the Classification Office to impose an age restriction in these cases if the publication contains material that…: [as specified in s. 3B of the Act …
‘… encourages them [children and young persons] to treat or regard themselves or others as degraded, dehumanised or demeaned.’ ”
This enables the Chief Censor’s Office to restrict a publication by means of age, or specified purpose or class of person(s) ….. EVEN though the contents do NOT fall within any of the five existing “gateway provisions” under s. 3(1) of the principal Act: sex, crime, cruelty, violence or horror.
This renders nugatory the Court of Appeal ruling in Living Word. Therefore any group of ‘aggrieved’ homosexuals, for example, can resubmit the Living Word videos to the Classification Office and claim that they…
“….encourage them [children and young persons] to … regard themselves or others as degraded, dehumanised or demeaned.”
A special provision in the existing Act enables the Chief Censor to reclassify any publication at his discretion, once submitted by an applicant. Following the passing of the Amendment Bill, a heavy restriction can now be imposed by the thought control police (The Censor’s Office) on the Living Word “talking head” opinion-piece videos, despite the fact that there is nothing in them that fits the internationally accepted standards of censorship criteria. Furthermore, there is no obscene language, no demeaning of any individual, or anything that would offend your average normal citizen, including children and young persons.
Where will this madness stop?
The stalking horse United Future has supported has a name: “Hate Speech”. In is now well-accepted that any criticism of civil union and/or same-sex ”marriage’ legislation, or homosexual lifestyle, constitutes “hate speech” and “homophobia,” when voiced by Christians or in fact anyone critiquing the aggressive “gay” rights agenda.
Homosexuals, Chief Censor Bill Hastings, and his Deputy, Nicola McCully, will now have the power to classify publications as ‘hate speech’ by defining it “hate speech” as:
Any publication that “encourage them [children and young persons] to … regard themselves or others as degraded, dehumanised or demeaned.”
This is the type of definition the Labour Party “gay” activists are pushing for in the current Inquiry into Hate Speech legislation currently before a select committee.
This definition can be broadened to include not only aggrieved young persons and adults claiming to speak on behalf of young persons, but also any “class of persons” who feel aggrieved. This provision already exists under s. 3(3) of the Act but under the Living Word Court of Appeal decision could not be used to restrict a publication unless it first, one or more of the “gateway” provisions applied to it.
Under the newly amended Act, restrictions of films and videos depicting teachings by Christians on Islam etc. will be open to gagging by the Chief Censor as well as all manner of legitimate viewpoints under the spurious argument that it does or may offend some individual(s) or so-called ‘class’ of persons based on “sexual orientation”
The Living Word videos contained a clear warning note in the trailers – advising parental guidance (they remain in a category “unrestricted” classification following a successful appeal in the Court of Appeal against a banning order). They should NEVER be subjected in any way to “restrictions” imposed by the Chief Censor’s Office or the Board of Review. They do not need ever need to go back to the Chief Censor. However, in the present sick climate of “gay” activism, it is very likely they will be re-submitted by extreme homosexual activists… setting up yet another dangerous legal precedent.
The young homosexual activists at Wellington High School who have paraded themselves before the media seeking to oust the Destiny Church from their school Hall, by putting pressure on their principal and school board, could well spearhead a fresh legal action against Living Word Distributors and their videos via the Chief Censor’s Office. He would no doubt prove to be a true ally, given that as the member of the Board that first banned the videos, he no has power to do the same. He has devoted a large portion of each of his annual reports in the Annual Reports the Classification Office over the last four years, to attacking the Court of Appeal decision in Living Word.
The passage of the FVPC Amendment Bill illustrates how the legislative process has been highjacked in order to overthrow a decision of the Court of Appeal. It shows how bad legislation can piggey-back on good legislative changes and remain hidden from view. Fortunately we have a lawyer of the calibre of Stephen Franks MP to highlight the dangers in this new law.
If the Chief Censor was genuinely concerned about matters outside the five jurisdictional gateways that warrant restrictions being imposed, this should have been achieved by specifying such activities as subsets within the principal Act’s categories. e.g. sex (including all sexualised images of children and young persons, obscene sexual content including language).
The activity category defined in the new section 3(b)(3) – degrading, demeaning and dehumanising sexual conduct – is already part of the 1993 Act (s. 3). It derives its meaning in the principal Act from the potential of some material to corrupt and titillate persons in a way that is injurious to the public good. The new definition introduced into the amended Act, radically alters its meaning so that the focus is on perceived grievances etc.
The Amendment Bill received the total commitment of the United Future Party, which has been alerted for over a year by the Society to the stalking horse within this proposed legislation. It has failed to raise any of these concerns and as a result of such negligence the Labour Party’s ‘bed-mate’ has allowed the Court of Appeal decision in Living Word to be effectively rendered obsolete.