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New Zealand


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country is an island nation with a total area of approximately 99,000 square miles and a population of approximately 3.8 million. The religious composition of the country is predominantly Christian but is becoming more diverse. According to the 1996 census, approximately 60.6 percent of citizens identified themselves as Christian or as affiliated members of individual Christian denominations; less than 3 percent were affiliated with non-Christian religions. The four major Christian denominations of Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches experienced a decline in membership between 1991 and 1996, with the proportion of the population affiliated with these denominations falling from 57.6 percent to 49.1 percent. Anglicans remained by far the largest Christian denomination, with 18 percent of the population in 1996. Pentecostals were the only major Christian group to experience significant growth (55 percent) during the same period. Among non-Christian religions, the number of Buddhists and Muslims more than doubled, while the number of Hindus increased by approximately 50 percent, although each of these groups still constitutes less than 1 percent of the population. The number of persons who indicated no religious affiliation also increased markedly between 1991 and 1996, rising by 33 percent to over one-fourth of the population. The indigenous Maori (approximately 15 percent of the population) overwhelmingly are followers of Presbyterianism, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Ratana, Ringatu, and other faiths.

According to 1996 census data, the following were the numbers and percentages of the population's religious affiliation: Anglican--631,764 (18.42 percent); Roman Catholic--473,112 (13.79 percent); Presbyterian--458,289 (13.36 percent); Methodist--121,650 (3.55 percent); Baptist--53,613 (1.56 percent); Mormons--41,166 (1.20 percent); Pentecostal--39,228 (1.14 percent); Ratana (a Maori/Christian group with services in the Maori language)--36,450 (1.06 percent); Buddhist--28,131 (0.82 percent); Hindu--25,293 (0.74 percent); Brethren--19,950 (0.58 percent); Jehovah's Witnesses--19,524 (0.57 percent); Assemblies of God--17,520 (0.51 percent); Salvation Army--14,625 (0.43 percent); Islam--13,548 (0.39 percent); Seventh-Day Adventist--12,324 (0.36 percent); Apostolic Church of New Zealand--8,913 (0.26 percent); Congregational--8,838 (0.26 percent); Ringatu (a Maori/Christian group with services in the Maori language)--8,268 (0.24 percent); Orthodox Christian--6,936 (0.20 percent); Spiritualist--5,097 (0.15 percent); Lutheran--5,007 (0.15 percent); Jewish--4,812 (0.14 percent); Churches of Christ--4,233 (0.12 percent); Reformed--3,288 (0.10 percent); Baha'i--3,111 (0.09 percent); Elim--3,018 (0.09 percent); Sikh-- 814 (0.08 percent); Protestant--2,778 (0.08 percent); Exclusive Brethren--1,986 (0.06 percent); Christadelphians--1,743 (0.05 percent); Uniting/Union Church--1,728 (0.05 percent); evangelical--1,584 (0.05 percent); Religious Society of Friends--1,161 (0.03 percent); Satanist--909 (0.03 percent); Worldwide Church of God--624 (0.02 percent); Rastafarianism--582 (0.02 percent); Taoism--561 (0.02 percent); Nazarene--459 (0.01 percent); Hauhau--408 (0.01 percent); Christian Science--294 (0.01 percent); Revival Centres--273 (0.01 percent); Unitarian--267 (0.01 percent); Hare Krishna--258 (0.01 percent); Church of Scientology--216 (0.01 percent); Commonwealth Covenant Church--168 (less than 0.01 percent); Unification Church--135 (less than 0.01 percent); other Christian--188,670 (5.50 percent); other non-Christian--4,596 (0.13 percent); other response including no religion--893,910 (26.06 percent); object to statement--256,593 (7.48 percent); not specified--187,881 (5.50 percent); total--3,618,303 (100.00 percent).

The Auckland statistical area (which accounts for roughly 30 percent of the country's total population) exhibits the greatest religious diversity. Farther south on the North Island, and on the South Island, the percentage of citizens who identified themselves with Christian faiths increased while those affiliated with non-Christian religions decreased.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels protects this right and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Education Act of 1964 specifies in its "secular clause" that teaching within public primary schools "shall be entirely of a secular character;" however, it also permits religious instruction and observances in state primary schools within certain parameters. If the school committee in consultation with the principal or head teacher so determines, any class may be closed at any time of the school day within specified limits for the purposes of religious instruction given by voluntary instructors. However, attendance at religious instruction or observances is not compulsory. According to the Legal Division of the Ministry of Education, public secondary schools also may permit religious instruction at the discretion of their individual school boards. The Ministry of Education does not keep centralized data on how many individual primary or secondary schools permit religious instruction or observances, but a curriculum division spokesperson maintains that in practice religious instruction, if it occurs at a particular school, usually is scheduled after normal school hours.

Under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act of 1975, the Government, in response to a burgeoning general primary school role and financial difficulties experienced by a large group of Catholic parochial schools, permitted the incorporation of private schools into the public school system. Designated as "integrated schools," they were deemed to be of a "unique character" and permitted to receive public funding provided that they allowed space for nonpreference students. A total of 303 of the 2,784 primary schools are integrated schools with this designation. More than 250 of these 303 schools are Catholic; there are a handful of non-Christian or non-religious schools, such as Islamic, Hare Krishna, or Rudolph Steiner--a school of spiritual philosophy. Primary school students are not required to attend an integrated school.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion; however, Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday are official holidays, and some businesses are fined if they attempt to operate on these holidays. The small but growing non-Christian communities has called for the Government to take into account the increasingly diverse religious makeup regarding holiday flexibility. In response, the Government acted to remove some constraints on trade associated with the Christian faith. In 2001 the Government enacted new legislation that permits several types of business to remain open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. However, many other businesses still are fined if they attempt to operate on these Christian holidays.

In 1993 the University of Canterbury granted an honors thesis to a student who reportedly denied the impact of the Holocaust. The controversial thesis was embargoed until 2000, when the author issued an apology and acknowledged mistakes in an addendum. Many members of the country's Jewish community criticized the university's refusal to rescind the degree or withdraw the thesis.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Amicable relations exist among the various religious communities in society. Incidents of religiously motivated violence are extremely rare. Due to the infrequency of their occurrence and difficulties in clearly establishing such motivations, the police do not attempt to maintain data on crimes that may have been motivated by religion.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.



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