BRUCE LOGAN – Published in the Dominion Post 12 Sep 2018
We’ve been at war over marriage and family for some time. Are we approaching the last battle?
In a High Court judgement against Family First, Justice France declared that Family First’s promotion of the “traditional family cannot be shown to be in the public benefit”. This decision is the opposite of the judgement of the same court in 2015.
The Family First model runs counter to human rights law, says Justice France.
If that’s true, then human rights law is an ass. So what has happened?
Human rights were originally conceived to protect people from an oppressive state. Their purpose was to prevent arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and censorship, by placing restraints on government. The state’s capacity and responsibility to protect these “negative rights” was assumed, since they required only that people be protected from over-reaching state power. They were the consequence of the belief that human dignity found its genesis in our creation by God, and not in the state.
Modern human rights are about entitlement, manipulated by the ideology of equality, diversity and the new affirming tolerance. Increasing new positive rights laws allow the state to decide what we are entitled to, and what we are not.
Consequently, we are in the middle of a spiritual and culture war over the control of the private and public conscience. Human rights have become a weapon to normalise social justice values of identity politics and to delegitimise traditional belief. These new rights are lining up against us to limit our liberties.
We used to believe that God was the master. Human beings were creatures with inalienable rights. For example, a man and a woman have a right to marry and start a family – the basic unit of civil society – not because the state says so, but because they are male and female.
Up until relatively recently, nearly everyone believed that.
However, with the increasing imposition of group equality – same sex marriage for example – rather than individual equality under law, it doesn’t matter what people might have believed about marriage. Marriage is now what the state says it is. In doing so, the state became a surrogate deity turning its own positive law into an absolute; it now determines what constitutes a family.
Going back to Magna Carta is helpful. Magna Carta was an attempt to understand and employ natural law. Human dignity was assumed because the framers believed that they had been created by God. For example, the idea of a just and reasonable tax is only possible if the state can be called to account by a higher law. There was a natural order by which men and women must live. It was the law’s function to understand that natural order and to give it positive expression. Law was discovered rather than invented.
Who’s the boss; God or the State? Family First, in its defence of the natural family declares that there is an authority above the state. Which is no more than what the natural family claims in practice. As the prime institution of civil society it has its own limited area of authority into which the state should not intrude. The natural family stands in the way of an aggressive overreaching state.
However, once the family has been redefined by the state, the game changes and citizen freedom is dramatically undermined. The Marxist doctrine echoes in the background; “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”
Modern human rights theory is all about invention. The state makes them up as it goes along.
That’s why Family First, according to Justice France, is guilty of breaking human rights law in its defence of the natural / traditional intergenerational family.
We’re told we are a secular society. Just what that might mean is difficult to ascertain, but one thing a secular society does not have is a new moral vision. At best all it can do is to distort the old narrative by emphasising one traditional virtue above the rest; tolerance at the expense of truth or courage for example.
Human rights, disconnected from their roots, have become parasitic. They consume the old notion of freedom hoping its digestion will lead us to the utopia the progressives keep promising us.
The deregistration of Family First’s charitable status must be resisted because much more than simple registration is at stake. The Commission’s claim that the traditional family is not the heart of a free nation is outrageous and wrong. Any kind of legal or bureaucratic action that undermines family status, function and authority will, most certainly, harm our children.