Indigenous Spiritual Concerns and the Secular State: Some New Zealand Developments
This article explores the recurrent global claim by indigenous peoples for their spiritual concerns to be taken seriously and given appropriate effect in public policy. The secular liberal state's commitment to ideals of religious neutrality and equal treatment of all faiths and none is clearly tested to the degree it privileges traditional indigenous religion in the name of fostering indigenous culture. This dilemma has been acutely raised in New Zealand where Maori metaphysical concerns - the appeasement of taniwha (spiritual monsters) and the evils of mingling the mauri (life-force) of human and non-human species in genetic engineering - have been subjected to judicial scrutiny. Quite apart from issues of justiciability, the legal acknowledgment of indigenous spirituality raises questions about the continued secularity of the state. This essay traverses the varying responses to indigenous spirituality, especially criticisms that such recognition constitutes government countenancing of primitive superstition, a fostering of paganism or naked religious favouritism.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Keywords: secularism; New Zealand; indigenous spirituality
Research Type: Journal Article