The Oaths Modernisation Bill

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For more years than I can remember, the New Zealand Parliament has imposed an oath of allegiance to the British crown as a test of fitness for citizenship, election to political office, service in the judiciary, the police force, the legal profession and the education system.   This oath consisted of the words "I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of New Zealand, her heirs and successors according to law.."

In consequence, many New Zealanders with strong moral convictions have been disqualified from taking up careers in the police, judiciary, Parliament or the teaching profession, while many others have chosen chosen the cynical alternative of an insincere oath.   Brad Shipton, Clint Rickards, and Philip Field are just a few of many who did not scruple to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, while many hundreds of others turned away from any involvement with the New Zealand state rather than swear an oath which conflicted with an informed conscience.  The eventual outcome has been a parliament of self-serving political opportunists, a corrupt police force, and schools which have descended into a state of near-anarchy.

Given that this long-standing obligatory oath of allegiance to the crown has had the effect of eroding the moral fibre of the New Zealand state, one might think that the New Zealand Parliament would now just say to its public "We are sorry.   We were wrong.   The oath of allegiance to the crown has done nothing but breed a spirit of hypocrisy, deceit and blind, amoral obedience among supporters of our regime, while alienating and disenfranchising  those of strong moral principles.   The time has come to abolish this pernicious requirement once and forever".
But that would be a rational and humane decision which appears quite beyond the powers of the New Zealand Parliament.    Rather than taking away the oath of allegiance to the crown Parliament is proposing to add to it the words "and that I will be loyal to New Zealand, will obey the law, and will respect the democratic values of New Zealand and the rights and freedoms of its people"

The very title of the bill is calculated to deceive, as though the proposed changes are merely cosmetic.   But Parliament is actually proposing to alter the wording of the oath in ways that are significant, contradictory and morally indefensible.    They are significant because they impose new requirements of "loyalty to New Zealand", "obedience to the law", "and respect for democratic values of New Zealand and the rights and freedoms of its people".    They are contradictory because  "true allegiance" to a hereditary monarch (who must by law be British and of the Anglican faith) cannot be reconciled with respect for "the democratic values of New Zealand".   And they are morally indefensible because their final effect is to bind the individual conscience ever more tightly to the power of the state.

The intent of the Bill is to give the to the legislature and the executive the "right" to preside over the consciences of its citizens through the oath of allegiance, a "right" which was previously the sole prerogative of the monarch.    "Loyalty to New Zealand" can, in the context of the bill, mean nothing more and nothing less than loyalty to the New Zealand state.   "Obedience to the law" means obedience to whatever laws the New Zealand legislature sees fit to pass.    Bearing in mind that this was a state which once made it illegal to feed the starving children of "locked out" workers, and sent men to jail for refusing to support the genocidal war against the people of Vietnam,  to give but two examples, how can any person of good conscience give a blanket pledge of obedience to whatever laws Parliament enacts?
And what are these "democratic values", "rights" and "freedoms" which Parliament is suggesting that we must agree to respect?    The state has ruled that the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders include the right to engage in usury and prositution, and, to take a more trivial example, by default, to talk on a telephone while driving a motor vehicle.   But why should citizens be required to give a blanket declaration of "respect" for such rights which are, at best, of dubious moral value?  And why should they give implicit assent to the idea that  "democratic values" take precedence over common morality?   If not, what is the point of pledging respect for democratic values at all?  Like all loyalty oaths, this so-called "modern oath"  is intended to stifle dissent.   In particular, it is designed to subjugate the conscience of the individual to the power of the state.
The "Oaths Modernisation Bill" is the duplicitous product of a hypocritical and duplicitious institution.    "Rights", "freedoms" and "democratic values" are concepts not devoid of merit.   But it is completely farcical for the same Parliament which has enforced allegiance to a racist, sexist and sectarian system of hereditary monarchy to now demand of its citizens a declaration of "respect" for "rights freedoms and democratic values".    In reality the only motive for this Bill  is to entrench the power and authority of the state at the expense of corrupting its citizens.

For the response of the Republican Movement of Aotearoa  click here