By Christian PlunkettThe New Zealand religious right has been on the rise in recent years, and the latest developments are raising questions about its influence.
The movement’s leader, former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has come under fire for allegedly exploiting religious symbols for political purposes.
In a recent interview, Ms Arderna said she believed religious symbols should be used to celebrate national holidays, including Christmas, Easter, New Year’s and St Patrick’s Day.
The sentiment is in line with the National Party’s approach to politics, which includes an “anti-Christmas” stance.
New Zealand has a long history of religious diversity, and in a country that is almost entirely Catholic, there has been a growing number of members of the faith seeking to find a voice in politics.
According to a 2015 survey conducted by the National Institute of Religion (NIR), a Christian party gained 8.5 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.
The NIR, an independent think-tank, defines a Christian as someone who holds “a particular religious view”.
Ms Arderns political party, the New Zealander Christian Party (NZCP), is a religious nationalist party that holds an anti-Christian, anti-Catholic and anti-Islamic agenda.
Its election platform states: “The New Zealands secular culture is being threatened by radical Islamic ideology, and this will not go away by itself, but the only way to save it is to defeat radical Islam, which will eventually destroy our society.”
It is a position that the NIR believes is incompatible with New Zealand’s secular and democratic institutions.
Ms Agathe-Kane was the National’s co-founder and a minister for over 40 years, from 1979 to 2011.
She has become known as one of the nation’s most prominent and vocal opponents of the party.
She is also the co-author of the book Christianity: A New Faith in a New Time (2008) and the Anti-Christian Manifesto (2011).
The New Testament contains a number of references to Jesus and the Church, but Ms Agathe Kane has always been more interested in the role of the Bible as a vehicle for political indoctrination.
“I think Christianity is more important to us than any other religion,” she said in the recent interview.
A recent study by the University of Canterbury showed that New Zealand is one of just two countries where a majority of those surveyed did not believe in God.
Despite the increasing visibility of the movement, there have been some setbacks for the movement.
One of the most prominent critics of the New NZCP is the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington, Martin Hynes, who has been critical of the Christian party.
He said Ms Agath Kane was “the antithesis of the spirit” of the religion.
Mr Hynes has since stepped down from his position.
Other critics of Ms Agatha Kane include a prominent Catholic priest, the Bishop of Wellington.
The Bishop said in 2016 he believed that the church should not endorse the New New Zealand Party because of its anti-Muslim and antiChristian beliefs.
It comes as a survey of more than 4,000 New Zealanders found that 61 per cent believe Christianity is a “religion of peace”, but only 31 per cent agreed with the statement “Christians should not be involved in politics”.
A spokesperson for Ms Agathy Kane said she “absolutely does not agree with the assertion that there should be a separation between religion and politics”.