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Moot court exercise--animist establishment

Okay, legal eagles, have a little fun with this one.

The following situation actually happened in New Zealand:

A Christian youth group carried a barbecue on a youth group hike to the top of a mountain. There they had a cookout, had a nice time, presumably prayed and enjoyed the beauty of God's creation. When they came down, they were admonished by some sort of official in the Department of Conservation (i.e., a government agent) that they had been insensitive. The Maori regard the mountain as sacred, and cooking and eating food on the mountain is doing so "over an ancestor," which is offensive. (He added that it would have been different to carry food along and eat it for sustenance, a bit of animist cauistry that I'm sure will come in handy sometime.) The Christians apologized (which was foolish of them), and presumably they plan never to do such a thing again. The DOC says they are going to try to "build greater awareness" in the public of these taboos and that they "ask" climbers to "avoid standing" on the summit, because it's the most sacred part of the mountain.

Take this case; transport it to America. We'll imagine it's an Indian belief that the mountain is sacred. And just to make it really interesting, imagine that instead of staying in the realm of bullying bluff and bluster, where it is unclear what will happen if you blow them a raspberry and have another barbecue next weekend, the park commissioner and/or the relevant legislative body actually sets up regulations, with penalties, stating that no one is allowed to cook food on the top of the mountain or to stand in some marked-off area on the very summit of the mountain. Imagine that they do so expressly for the purpose of being sensitive to native "spiritual" sensibilities. (Of course, in the real world, they'd probably switch mid-stream, lie, and say that all this was needed to avoid forest fires and that standing on the marked-off part of the summit is too dangerous, but let's imagine for the sake of the thought experiment that they don't try that.)

By the logic of present American establishment jurisprudence, should such a regulation be regarded as an unconstitutional establishment of religion? Recall that Justice O'Connor's Lynch test, which some take to explicate and some take to replace the Lemon test, holds that an establishment of religion has taken place when a message of endorsement of a religion is sent telling "non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."

HT: MandM

Comments (80)

Why was it foolish of the Christians to apologize and not do it again? I'm taking the news report at face value (yeah, I know), in particular assuming that a significant number of Maoris would find this offensive, not just this one government guy. Given that, an apology and a promise not to do it again are exactly the right thing.

The Christians unknowingly desecrated a sacred site. It would have been easily avoidable if they'd known. If people know about this, then they can easily respect the sacredness of the place either by cooking their food before taking it up the mountain, or by having their barbecue on another mountain. This isn't some tragic clash of cultures or anything. It's not like a barbecue on that mountain is some sacred Christian rite.

Apologizing seems like a no-brainer. I can't imagine not apologizing in a situation like this - again, assuming that this Maori guy really is speaking for a significant segment of Maoris. Is there a Christian angle to your opinion? Would an apology have been appropriate if this weren't a Christian group?

The Christians unknowingly desecrated a sacred site.

If there were a legitimate reason to apologize - and there might have been - it had nothing to do with the mountain being a "sacred" site reserved for Maori occult practices. Such a place is not sacred and therefore cannot be desecrated. Indeed, a Christian presence on the mountain, with the use of prayer and sacramentals, ought to be encouraged and the mountain consecrated to God. Back in the day, when Christians actually lived as they professed to believe, they would establish monasteries in such places.

I'm not qualified to address the jurisprudence here, but Lydia's stumper of a question is another example of how official religious neutrality always works against Christianity in a Christian country.

Aaron, it was foolish to apologize because truth matters. The world isn't a giant religious kindergarten play-house where we go around patting each other on the head and pretending that things are true that aren't true. The mountain isn't an ancestor, it isn't sacred, and Christians shouldn't be bowing and scraping to such nonsense. Truth matters. Animism is not true. It's a very bad precedent for Christians to act like it is true. Liberals use concepts like "offense" to make us literally pretend that religious statements are true that are emphatically and importantly false. That's a very dangerous road to go down. And Christians _know_ better.

It's interesting that the secularists, who are supposedly so rational, are the ones who seem to think that we should go around talking like a mountain is an ancestor. I guess it's really true that if someone doesn't believe in God he'll believe in anything.

It was also foolish because this park fellow is obviously a bully and a petty dictator. The picture of ordinary New Zealanders cringing before this guy who acts like he owns the mountain and can dictate their every move thereupon ought to be sick-making to anyone of spirit. The mountain is not private property. Yet they are supposed to apologize for breathing wrong upon it and be pathetically grateful for his faux-gracious words of praise for their picking up extra trash (that's in the story) off the summit. "Good doggy, now." Secure in his position as a member of a privileged class, he orders ordinary people around. Faugh. Nobody has any spine any longer. That sort of thing ought to be stood up to. An appeaser is a person who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

Not to be too coy, by the way: It's my view that this should be a knock-down "yes" as far as establishment jurisprudence in America. Whether the courts would be consistent with earlier precedents on it, of course, is a different and non-logical question.

Regarding Aaron's point, there is the infamous problem of Romans 14:

[1] As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions.
[2] One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables.
[3] Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him.
[4] Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.
[5] One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind.
[6] He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
[7] None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.
[8] If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.
[9] For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
[10] Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;
[11] for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."
[12] So each of us shall give account of himself to God.
[13] Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
[14] I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.
[15] If your brother is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died.
[16] So do not let your good be spoken of as evil.
[17] For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit;
[18] he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
[19] Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
[20] Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats;
[21] it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble.
[22] The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God; happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves.
[23] But he who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because he does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
[1] We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves;
[2] let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.
[3] For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me."
[4] For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
[5] May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
[6] that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I realize it doesn't apply in the case of correcting a sin (which idolatry is), but one might tolerate an evil for a while for the sake of a better good, which might be the later ability to evangelize the park guard in a less tense situation. Don't know. Judgement call.

The Chicken

I consider Romans 14 completely irrelevant. This is more like being asked to pour a libation to Caesar. "Oh, sorry, we didn't know the mountain was sacred. We promise not to stand or cook on your ancestor's head." This isn't a matter of a "brother" who is "weak in faith." This is a matter of being asked by an outright adherent of a pagan religion to treat the pagan religion as real.

As I tried to mentioned at the end of my post, above, one can never sacrifice meat to idols, as in the case (at least symbolically) here, but there are times when one might tolerate something for a greater good. The question is, what should they have done? It seems unlikely that engaging the park official on the fallacies of animism would have resulted in any good except to get themselves hauled off to jail. Are all mountains sacred to Maori, or just this one? I suppose the government could restrict access to it as they do with burial mounds or a reservation, if that were the case. Just how should people or governments deal with people wit in their borders who have different religious beliefs ( certainly, we haven't solved the problem in the U. S.) Obviously, the truth must come first, but ignorance and fear are hard to overcome. I tend to use a soft approach if I can and save the rack for really difficult and obdurate cases.

The Chicken

Chicken, if he really has the power (which is unclear) under law to compel them not to cook on the mountain, they could say, "We will comply with this regulation for the time being, though we consider this to be an establishment of animist religion and are reviewing our legal options." There was _no need whatsoever_ to say, "Oh, we're so sorry, we didn't know about any tapu and had no intention to offend." The latter gives the impression that they accept the notion that the mountain can really be "sacred" in an animist way and that animist 'tapu' is a real thing. That's not right.

Moreover, if he does not have the actual power and is just bluffing and hoping that all the Christians are such nice guys that they won't call his bluff, then they would be completely within their rights to call it, and I think it would be wise to do so, because the longer he gets away with that kind of bluffing, the more cowed everyone will be. They should say, "Mr. So-and-so does not have the legal power to forbid cooking on the mountain. We will do so again next week and pray the one true God's blessing on Mr. So-and-so as part of our service on the mountaintop." Elijah and the priests of Baal.

This is balderdash. Unless the Maori's own the mountain outright, these kids were within their rights to have a barbie on it. Christians should not allow themselves to be ordered around by some PC idiot trying to enforce a pagan belief down their throats.

By the logic of present American establishment jurisprudence, should such a regulation be regarded as an unconstitutional establishment of religion? Recall that Justice O'Connor's Lynch test, which some take to explicate and some take to replace the Lemon test, holds that an establishment of religion has taken place when a message of endorsement of a religion is sent telling "non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."

Wow, yikes. By that definition, any positive statement about any religion by a politician would be a no-no.

The Chicken

Not necessarily, Chicken, unless he's acting in some official capacity and doing so on behalf of the government.

But of course, I'm envisaging a situation where the DOC officially prohibited cooking on the mountain.

Thanks, Stephen Dalton, exactly.

Not sure about the various legal issues surrounding such a case, but I'm with Aaron as far as the respect matter goes. I for one would not appreciate such disrespect if the shoe were on the other foot, if, say, a group of kids unknowingly did something disrespectful in a church cemetery or on church property.

While I'm about as anti-PC as you can get, I'd still say that given the fact that most modern Western societies practice some measure of religious tolerance, a certain amount of mutual respect is necessary in such societies.

Rob G., it _isn't_ church property. It is a whole doggoned mountain in the middle of a public park! They didn't "do something disrespectful." They had a cookout outdoors in a public park. This is _normal_ behavior. And the park guy also wants to "discourage" even _standing on the top of a mountain_. That's, you know, what people climb up mountains _for_--to stand on the summit. When was the last time that engaging in normal, expected, outdoor behavior in a public park was "unknowingly disrespectful" to Christianity and that Christians would ever seek an apology for it? Not at all, that's when. Because Christians don't have this type of arrogance that perfectly ordinary activities in ordinary, scenic, outdoor places are "disrespectful." And you know why that is? Because Christians are not animists and don't worship nature. That's why Christian holy places are really set aside and are clearly marked. They aren't just ordinary whole huge swathes of nature declared "sacred" so everybody has to tiptoe around them and can "unknowingly" be "disrespectful" by eating there or standing there.

What is the _matter_ with all of you?

What did these kids say? They said they were "unaware of any tapu," that they were sorry and had no intention to "offend."

You can't see how that implies that this *entire mountain* in a *public park* is really sacred--"tapu" and must be treated with respect? You can't see how that affirms the pagan religion?

Rob, if you can say that, then you certainly are not as anti-PC as it gets. You think that "mutual tolerance" means treating a mountain like a god and apologizing when you accidentally don't do so, in the name of "respect." That's groveling before animism.

Maybe some of y'all ought to prepare a lecture for St. Patrick when you meet him on how he should have been respectful towards the druidical oak. After all, he wouldn't like it if the shoe were on the other foot and the druids had been disrespectful to something that was important to him...

How is respecting a religion's sacred place pretending that the religion is true? You're showing respect for people by not committing a certain taboo in their false religion. That's not an indication that you espouse their false religion, and nobody in their right mind would see it that way. And it's not like pouring a libation to Caesar. First of all, the (nominal) Christians are Caesar in New Zealand. Second, it's not an act of service - that would certainly have been over the line. It's more like refraining from having a Christian-group barbecue in a temple dedicated to Apollo.

People object to my standard usage of the word "sacred" and insist instead on what sounds to me like an idiosyncratic usage. I said the mountain is sacred, obviously meaning sacred to them. What's objectionable in that? It doesn't mean it's sacred to you or to the true God. Christians have been using the word as I did for as long as I can remember: "Cows are sacred to Hindus", etc. Did English usage just change all of a sudden?

I'm curious how many of your parents and grandparents would have reacted the same way as you, assuming they were believing Christians? The conservative Christians I've known would most likely have reacted the same as those Christians in New Zealand. The reason I ask is that I suspect - just a suspicion - that this attitude is a reaction to political correctness and over-accommodation of other religions. I'd call it an over-reaction, of course: "We're not going to surrender an inch!" I'm old enough to remember a time before political correctness, and I don't remember Christians acting as disrespectfully back then as you guys say they should.


That's the problem. A mountain is a mountain and a public park is a public park. But a chuch graveyard is clearly marked out as sacred space, *property* set aside for a sacred purpose. Unless there is some way that mountain is marked out, say a sign at the bottom of a path or a brochure at the park entrance (if there is such) then the kids have absolutely nothing to apologize for.

They might be gracious and agree not to do it again, but apologize? No.

And why in blazes are the Maori not offended by their sacred space being a public park? Is it only Christianity that offends?


Yes, Lydia, I see and take your point. But St. Patrick didn't live in a modern democracy with freedom of religion as one of its principles. I'm commenting on the "apology" and nothing else. I think the setting aside of the entire mountain, the proscriptions, etc. are ridiculous. BUT...I still don't think the apology was uncalled for. You offend someone, you apologize, even if the offense was unintentional or seems silly to you. It's just manners.

It is a whole doggoned mountain in the middle of a public park!

How did this "sacred" mountain get into a public park?? Didn't the parks department know something like this would happen? It seems to me that they are the negligent ones.

While I can be as militant as the next guy, I wonder if the flavor of comments might not be a behavioral issue in how Catholics and Protestants do evangelization. The Jesuits in the 16th- and 17th-centuries tried the direct approach in Japan and failed, miserably, because of the enculturation of the Japanese religion. It took at least a hundred years after they left for Christianity to make a dent and it was largely laity-led by the indigenous folk. I doubt, given the sensibilities of New Zealand, that the direct approach would work any better, there. That doesn't mean that in this instance witnessing to the park official would not have beeb a good thing, just that, if New Zealand has a large indigenous animist population, then there would probably be little effect on the wider public. I don't know. I haven't been hitting on all cylinders, today, so, I'll lay back and listen to the other folks for a while.

The Chicken

What in the world does not violating the Maori precepts have to do with acting as if the mountain is sacred? It has nothing to do with acting as if Maori beliefs are true and everything to do with treating the Maori with respect. Do you think forcibly taking over a mosque and making it into a church is permissible because "error has no rights"? How would you feel if they did the same to you? You would hate them and hate their religion. This kind of thought is unproductive.

As for St. Patrick, as far as I know he didn't forcibly take over Druidic lands. And yes, this land is public land - which was probably stolen from Maori ancestors.

No, Rob, some things you don't apologize for. Just because someone chooses to be offended because he thinks crazy things, it doesn't follow that a person who treads on his weird taboos should apologize. "Offendedness" is not some sort of automatic ticket to an apology. If I have some insane religion in which people who are breathing on the sidewalk in front of my house are "taking away breath from my ancestors," this does not entitle me to an apology when someone walks past my house without holding his breath.

Christians should not be showing deference to animist taboos on public property. That's not just a matter of being nice. That's a matter of allowing the animists to take over the public property and treat it as an animist church. That's a problem. Public property shouldn't be an animist church.

Again, if the park fellow really has power to punish them if they do it again, then it might be a matter of prudence not to do it again. But to apologize and to speak as if the mountain really is sacred is to give undue deference to the other religion. The Maori practitioners *do not own the mountain* and shouldn't be allowed to cow everyone else into talking as though they do.

Let me point out, too, that simply to close off the mountain altogether would not serve the animist purpose nearly as well as what they are doing. Think about it: If only Maori went up on the mountain, then they do not get to advance the supremacist agenda. That agenda is advanced by having the mountain be public so that everyone, including Christian youth groups, gets to go up there, but then forcing all these other people to refrain from ordinary activities like, for crying out loud, standing on the summit of the mountain. This constitutes a victory: Everybody else is walking on this mountain and acting like animists. "Oops, Joe, you'd better not stand up there. It's tapu."

That, by the way, is why brochures and the like do not in themselves put any actual moral obligations on park visitors. If it's a matter of an actual rule for which you can be punished, then, as I said, it might be prudent to follow the rule. But it's still incredibly arrogant. Even if there were a brochure that said, "This mountain is sacred. We regard it as our ancestor. We encourage you to refrain from standing on the summit or cooking food, as our animist hearts will be offended if you do so," this would not actually morally obligate people to go along with this nonsense.

So, John H., because white men = bad land thieves, this means that all public land in New Zealand = Maori church, and not following all Maori taboos in the use of this land is tantamount to "taking over a mosque" by force? Got it. Vide, people: The secularist perspective.

If St. Patrick (and/or Boniface, of whom a similar story is told) really cut down a pagan oak tree, it was not an oak tree on Patrick's or Boniface's private property! It was a tree that the people themselves had been regarding as sacred for a long time past. Very much like the Maori claim about the mountain, in fact.

First of all, the (nominal) Christians are Caesar in New Zealand.

Aaron, I can't for the life of me imagine where you get that idea. Perhaps you are confusing New Zealand with England?

Well, it's certainly not a hill I'm going to die on, Lydia. I see it as a basic issue of manners, you don't. End of story.

Chicken, I think of it not so much as an attempt to evangelize this particular park official but rather as resistance to the supremacism of a false religion. In that sense, I think it's an important line to hold as a precondition for evangelism. To the extent that this animist religion comes to dictate terms and actions for all other people on public lands, Christianity is disfavored and Christian evangelism made more difficult. The extreme deference that everyone is being asked to show makes it that much harder even for questions of truth to be taken seriously and for the truth of Christianity to be taken as a serious option. That's why this ought to be resisted--because it is establishing the control of this false religion over the terms of public action and public debate. Not because this particular person will be that much more likely to become a Christian as a result (though kow-towing to bullies is probably not good for the souls of bullies, as a matter of fact).

Let me add that I have now seen at least one person, presumably a Christian, opine in a separate forum that the linked article from MandM should have included only an argument of "principle" (!!)--to whit, that Christians are "offended" by such requirements. In particular, Christian "polemic" was said *not to be appropriate in public*. I repeat: Christian polemic was said not to be appropriate in public.

This apparently represents the internalization by Christians in New Zealand of a certain set of attitudes regarding Christianity. Where can we engage in "Christian polemic"? Not even on the Internet. No, no, that's "public." Perhaps only in church, or only in the privacy of our own homes.

And to imply that it is "principled" to whine about being "offended" (great, now the government gets to decide whether to offend the Christians or the Maori--wonder which way they'll go?) but is not "principled" to say that animism is _false_, that the mountain isn't an ancestor, and that Christians should resist attempts to make them act like it is...

Well, it just takes my breath away. Principled statements about truth are unprincipled polemic and mere grievance-mongering is principled argument.

This is where our secularist masters would lead us. And they are using notions of being nice, being mannerly, being "respectful" to pagan religions or false religions like Islam as the ring in the nose by which to lead us in that direction.

Let's just say no.

Rob, you'd be put in a real quandary if someone told you that he was offended by your willingness to apologize to all the animists who say they are offended by normal human activities. You'd have to decide whom to offend and whom to apologize to. :-)

Somehow, I don't think the government will decide to let protesters stand on Church private property. And yes, as the original property owners, I do think the Maori have a strong claim as to what happens on that mountain. Can you imagine a Muslim making sarcastic comments about the "big bad Caliphate" taking over Constantinople? The analogy is apt, and I'm not a secularist, at least not in a robust sense.

"Do unto others..." Say a group of Maoris inadvertently did someting disrespectful to Christian piety while visiting a church. Wouldn't an apology from them be appreciated once the error was made known? If so, why shouldn't this work the other way?


If Christians had the incredible arrogance to try to claim an entire mountain on which people are already allowed to hike (or an entire forest, etc.) as a Christian "holy site" and to dictate that people cannot engage in perfectly ordinary activities like standing (ahem) on the top of that mountain, then NO, an apology would not be in order.

Details matter.

It's the nature of secular-whipped wimps to make vague and unbelievably inapt analogies between things that are disanalogous. Pull up your socks and try to think more clearly, Rob. Seriously. "Um, what if some Maoris inadvertently did something disrespectful to Christian piety [like what? how could this really be inadvertent? are norms of Christian piety even in a church such that someone could really do something seriously disrespectful just by doing things he would normally do in such a place? are Christians like Muslims so that you have to go through elaborate rituals like taking off your shoes and separating men from women in order not to be disrespectful? could somebody be seriously disrespectful just by walking into the church and standing there while no service is going on? and no, please, don't even try it, nobody normally barbecues in the nave of a church...] while visiting a church [THIS ISN'T A CHURCH AND SHOULDN'T BE TREATED LIKE ONE], then..."

No, no, no, no, no. Intelligent Christians can and should think more clearly than this.


I'm with Lydia on this, as my previous response shows. This is most certainly *not* about something as simple and obvious as good manners. If it were, we'd be getting an apology for every Japanese tourist who whips out his Nikon in St. Paul's cathedral (if we're going to indulge in racist stereotypes here, per John H).

But it's not, because this is not really a designated sacred space, if it were, it wouldn't be a public park. No, this is about putting Christianity on its back foot and penalizing both public expressions of Christianity and public gatherings of Christians.


"Imagine that they do so expressly for the purpose of being sensitive to native "spiritual" sensibilities."

Some folks cry hard times at any slight to their own true religion and yet wax sarcastic at the beliefs of others. Why am I not shocked.

Temporary exclusion of the public is clearly legal on Forest Service lands (25 U.S.C. 3054) and 42 U.S.C. 1996.

There is a 1996 Executive Order (E.O. 13007)

"(b) Within 1 year of the effective date of this order, the head of each executive branch agency with statutory or administrative responsibility for the management of Federal lands shall report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, on the implementation of this order. Such reports shall address, among other things,
i. any changes necessary to accomodate access to and ceremonial use of Indian sacred sites;
ii. any changes necessary to avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of Indian sacred sites; and
iii. procedures implemented or proposed to facilitate consultation with appropriate Indian tribes and religious leaders and the expeditious resolution of disputes relating to agency action on Federal lands that may adversely affect access to, ceremonial use of, or the physical integrity of sacred sites."

This article has other cases cited which may be of interest,


You might also want to check out both the opinion and dissent in "Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association". The record seems to favor vested interests over Native American religion. If there is serious opposition I wouldn't bet on the Indians.

"...as needed to avoid forest fires..."

Fire is a serious problem out west and we probably shouldn't encourage conservative paranoia as to fire closures.

Al, we aren't talking about not allowing access uberhaupt to some whole area, though that's an interesting question in its own right. I made it clear what I was suggesting: Not allowing people to cook out at the site, because it's supposedly "eating over an ancestor," and not allowing people to stand on a space at the summit because of the alleged "sacredness" of the summit.

So, Al, if I understand this correctly: Establishment jurisprudence _has_ been interpreted in the U.S., and this has not been struck down, to mean that the government _cannot_ put in place a mandatory long-term exclusion of climbers from a site because it is "sacred" to Indians. The article you cite deplores this, so there is something there to deplore. It looks like the regulations I propose would, under this very precedent, be ruled unconstitutional establishments.

Simply put, the Christians should have asked the park official: a) where is the sign prohibiting cookouts, 2) where is the sign designating this section of a public park as a restricted area, 3) where does any literature or website by the park state either, 4) if there are no designations then who is really at fault if any harm were done (hint: the park service), 5)is he designated to speak for the Moari, 6) does he have any evidence to support the claim of the sacredness of the mmountain, since Christians do not recognize it as such and should be given at least as much respect for their beliefs, 7)would he call the manager so they can complain about his insensitivity to them.

Clearly, the park service is at fault in every way, except it is sillines to haul a couch up a mountainside. I would have nailed then for unlawful living room furniture and attempted hernia.

The Chicken

At the risk of getting my head bit off, I will put in a couple of cents worth.

There is no obligation on the part of government, speaking generally, to accommodate false religions. The theory that government must in principle treat all religions equally is balderdash, and in the long run cannot be supported by sane people. (Just consider child-sacrificing Moloch worshipers.)

Nevertheless, there is considerable room for the state accommodating false religions, and even treating religions on an equal footing to a limited extent, within some limitations. As Chicken said earlier, it can serve the common good to not make public waves about specific false practices of a false religion.

Therefore, the question must be allowed room for a judgment call as to when, and how much, accommodation is to be granted for the sake of a higher common good. Certainly such judgment should take into account the amount of space / time / disruption to the public that is being requested. If we are talking about a small mountain with definable limits, for some remote mountain that is both unlikely to be wanted for general use by the general public, and is considered the holiest place on earth, I can believe that the government could accommodate the religion by setting it aside. But of course, a decision to do so would have to be carried out by officials making an official act of accommodation, and thus with public notice, public signs, etc.

The event we are talking about here does have the scent of a "gotcha", an intentional attack on traditional religious sensibilities using the mere color of "religious sensitivity" to minority religion. The site is not even listed on Taranaki DOC's website as a "heritage site", for example.

I don't agree that the group shouldn't have been willing to express regret for having upset Maori sensibilities. If it was done without knowledge, and if - having had the knowledge that the site was "sacred" - they could just as easily have chosen another place to use, then it is surely possible to regret having used the site in that limited sense of regret: 'on, gee, I wish someone had told us beforehand'. Not, though, in the sense of "oh, no, I am responsible for doing something wrong to you."

I completely disagree, Tony, but you shd. recognize yourself that the situation is completely different from what you are envisaging. The mountain obviously is wanted for public use. People climb it all the time already. And as I said, setting it aside would serve the supremacist agenda clearly in play here (I'm surprised you don't see it) even less than allowing people to go up it while asking them to observe absurd taboos like not standing on the summit. Ask yourself: If you were climbing it with a group of friends and someone _had_ "told you ahead of time," and one of your friends went up and stood right on the summit, as people commonly do after going to the trouble to climb a mountain, and set his camera up with a delay to take a picture, what would it mean for you to say to him, "Oh, hey, Joe, don't do that. It's insensitive to the Maori religion"? Just think about it. Because that's what they're asking for.

I don't understand why it is offensive to eat or stand anywhere in a public park, although cooking can be legitimately restricted due to fire hazard. If there was any proof they wrote the graffiti or if they littered, I would understand some mild rebuke, but there isn't any.

But it's not, because this is not really a designated sacred space, if it were, it wouldn't be a public park.

If a group of Hindus decided they would have a little festival inside St. Luke's Church, which is a historical landmark but still used occasionally, I wonder what the Episcopalians would say.

Step2, I'm getting a little tired of saying this: It isn't a church, so that's a poor analogy, and barbecuing is a perfectly normal, expected activity to take place in the great outdoors at a public park. Is this really so hard for people to factor into their analyses? Yet, the beginning of your comment does seem to factor it in, so I don't understand where you're coming from.

(Speaking in muffled voice while trying to re-fit my head to my neck)

Right, Lydia, that's why I threw in "remote" and not wanted for general use. If the DOC in charge of the place cannot be bothered to signal that it is "reserved" or somehow set aside, then I wouldn't treat it as reserved or set aside. And if somebody came up to me afterwards and said "you walked on my grandfather's grave", I would have said, "hey, sorry, nobody told me, nobody put up any signs saying this was forbidden." Depending on how cantankerous the other person was, I might also add "you know, you would be a lot more effective in preventing people from upsetting you like this if you were to make sure that the government puts up signs for reserved areas instead of leaving it to people's powers of ESP." Since I would view the confrontation as almost perfectly devoid of immediate use for proselytizing, I wouldn't bother mentioning that the only truly sacred mountains are the ones set aside to worship Jesus Christ. (But I might say, "gee, and I never even noticed any crosses on the graves" if I was feeling especially peckish. )

My point is that there is nothing wrong with regretting have been the occasion of someone else getting upset, even if the fault is entirely on the other person and not you. You can still regret being the incidence of annoyance to them.

Oh, come on, Tony, I'm treating you with kid gloves. Put it down to all the credit you have for all the (other) times lately when you've been knocking it out of the ballpark.

Let's try a somewhat clearer thought experiment here so I can make it clearer one place where I see a problem coming in. I don't think it's just a matter of lack of information. Let's suppose that you _did know_ that the Maori (or the Indians or whatever) look at it this way. But let's also suppose that it's not an actual law promulgated by a due authority with powers of enforcement. Let's suppose it's just put forward as a "Hey, you're a nice person, aren't you? Well, then, of course you wouldn't want to _offend_ anybody, would you?" sort of thing. Maybe the "explanation" (though with no actual rule with penalties) is in a brochure or something. Maybe it's just that you read this news story about what the DOC guy said about the Christian group. Maybe the ranger gives a little talk that you hear about how they "encourage sensitivity"--one of those deliberate gray-area, let's-see-if-we-can-get-everybody-to-censor-their-own-behavior things that liberals love.

And the two "sensitivity" things are 1) Not standing right on the summit and 2) not cooking food on the mountain.

Okay, so a friend of yours proposes to stand on the summit or barbecue on the mountain. Maybe he didn't hear about the "tapu" or maybe he did and says, "Oh, nonsense. There's no such thing as tapu. The mountain isn't an ancestor. This is a bunch of animist baloney, and it isn't actually the law." Let's imagine that he isn't planning to make a Youtube video of it. He's just going to do it because he wants to do it anyway, and it's _possible_ that the word might get out to the natives. He might post some pictures for his friends on Facebook. Maybe the natives will hear about it, maybe they won't, but his behavior is going to be just as it would be if there were no taboo in the first place.

Do you try to dissuade him? Do you refuse to hike up with him? Do you at first try to inform him lest he _accidentally_ stand up there right on the summit, even though nobody else is with you, and violate the "tapu"? In other words, do you range yourself on the side of trying to get other people to modify their otherwise perfectly healthy, normal behavior in the use of this outdoor resource _sheerly on the grounds_ that this healthy, normal behavior violates an animist taboo? Isn't that a problem for a Christian to do?

I'm not really that thin skinned. :-) Feel free to bash away.

Speaking for myself, I would probably do one of 2 things: either distance myself from the problem altogether by hiking somewhere else where nobody will misunderstand my actions, or go ahead knowing that I am causing hurt and be prepared to use that fact in some positive way. And if I am going to use it in some positive way, I would try to enlist my friends in that positive good also.

Listen, I went to a college that had to expend enormous extra effort and money to build some buildings that were on sites that were reputed to be sacred Indian burial sites, even though the land had been out of Indian hands for literally generations. (Turned out that there were, in fact, a few bones there.) I saw the nonsense up front. I don't think that we should accommodate everything that pagans claim ought to be protected. (I would love to know just how many Indians really would have been religiously upset with the college bulldozing the site, as opposed to merely being professionally upset with "damn European's dissin' us again.")

But I would rather err on the side of non-confrontational easing of speech by allowing as that I, in a strictly socially polite sense, regret being the occasion of pain to you, than insist that not only do I have a right to use the mountain the way I did (which I do have), but that I have a right not to have made you irritated with me in doing so. That's all.

But it seems to me that if you apologize, Tony, then that really does amount to saying, "We wouldn't have done it if we knew, and we won't do it again." That, at least.

Which, if I'm not mistaken, would seem to commit the person who apologizes to following those requirements if he ever happens to go up that particular mountain again. And if he does, and if he thinks he should, because otherwise it's being unkind, disrespectful, etc., then presumably he's also going to tell other people they should as well.

Do you see a flaw in that line of thought?

It isn't a church, so that's a poor analogy...

If you read the assertion I was responding to, it apparently has some regard as a sacred place even though it is controlled by the park service. Please note, the Hindus in my analogy weren't doing anything to the church property, just having a small pagan celebration.

...and barbecuing is a perfectly normal, expected activity to take place in the great outdoors at a public park.

It is a perfectly normal and expected activity in certain areas of a public park. Many, many public lands have some restrictions for reasons of fire hazard.

Yet, the beginning of your comment does seem to factor it in, so I don't understand where you're coming from.

If visitors are officially restricted from standing or eating somewhere in the park due to "religious sensitivities", the government is violating the establishment clause. Since every public park has a unilateral right to control when and where campfires may be set, I'm much more lenient on that issue even if done for the wrong reasons.

Look at it from this angle, Tony: Under most circumstances, nobody is even going to know that the hikers did the cookout, and _certainly_ not that they happened to go and stand up on the summit. It's not like there's a surveillance camera up there. The only reason Mr. Busy-body found out this time was because the innocents put up a video of it. But if they'd happened not to, no one would be the wiser, and the mountaintop would even be the cleaner for their picking up other people's trash. So what we're essentially talking about is people--let's say Christian people, for the sake of the argument--monitoring themselves when they are out in the middle of nowhere and nobody but God and each other is even seeing them so as to modify their behavior concerning actions that very plausibly aren't even going to "cause hurt" to anyone, simply because it _might_ get out and because in this vague and global sense it is "insensitive" or "disrespectful." Now, doesn't that strike you as problematic? We're talking about almost literally tiptoeing around an ostensibly "sacred" mountain just because some pagans say that it's sacred. That seems to me extremely problematic, eerie, even. It's really a matter of internalizing their norms, though under the rubric of "respect."

I presume that if the Maoris told people that it was against their religion to take a drink out of a water bottle on the top of the mountain, you would draw the line there and not comply--hopefully, not apologize either if someone happened to find out that you drank out of your water bottle.

Step2, I'm sure you're aware: The reason for and purpose of a law is extremely important in American First Amendment jurisprudence. And unless one rejects the whole body of First Amendment precedents (which one might understandably do, but which would be a discussion for another day), that has at least a certain logic to it. Sometimes it goes so far as to involve a sort of strange and unwarranted (in my opinion) mind-reading, but I am imagining a situation in which it is made _completely clear_ that the reason for the ban is that cooking would be "cooking over an ancestor"--that is, a religious reason rather than any reason having to do with fire control.

The rhetoric in a lot of these comments ("secularist masters", "supremacist agenda", etc.) supports my speculation: that this is an over-reaction to political correctness. For good or ill, Christians in the days before political correctness were a lot more respectful of other religions than many of you are.

One comment really struck me in its boorishness. Refusing to apologize because you did nothing intentionally wrong? Could you imagine a traditional Christian American saying this 50 or 100 years ago?

The idea that nonlegal controls on behavior are characteristically liberal? Come on. It's a traditional practice. I like the idea of a sign saying, "Please respect the sacredness of this site to the Maori religion" or whatever. Then 99 percent of people would respect it and the rest, well, God bless you. But the characteristically liberal thing would be to encode the prohibition in written law along with plenty of rhetoric about rights.

Since Lydia responded to my Caesar comment: that was really a secondary point. The primary reason that her "libations to Caesar" analogy is invalid is that refraining from certain behavior is not an act of religious service.

There's one aspect on which I do agree completely with Lydia. Details matter. This kind of problem needs to be solved ad hoc, not by some philosophical principle or formula as some commenters apparently think it can be.

Not sure about the various legal issues surrounding such a case, but I'm with Aaron as far as the respect matter goes. I for one would not appreciate such disrespect if the shoe were on the other foot, if, say, a group of kids unknowingly did something disrespectful in a church cemetery or on church property.

And herein is the problem. The kids could be reasonably assumed to know what is appropriate there because a church or church cemetery exist for a specific purpose. Same with mosques, synagogues and the temples of, for lack of a better word, "high pagan religions" like Hinduism and Shintoism.

Suppose one of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest declared the entire shoreline to be sacred and cried foul that common beach activities were a desecration. Would you say that Christians should no longer enjoy the beach or fish along the shoreline out of mutual respect?

Since every public park has a unilateral right to control when and where campfires may be set, I'm much more lenient on that issue even if done for the wrong reasons.

That should read "illegal reasons" since it is illegal to use a legitimate secular power for the advancement of a religion, at least in the US.

Using your argument, one of the many abuses of authority that could be justified would be to use civil asset forfeiture laws to blatantly make up for lower tax revenues.

~~Seriously. "Um, what if some Maoris inadvertently did something disrespectful to Christian piety [like what? how could this really be inadvertent?] ~~

In the Orthodox Church it is forbidden for laypeople to enter the altar area of the church without the permission of the priest. If a group of folks on a church tour, say, is looking around the sanctuary, and one of them walks into the altar area wanting to get a better view of the icons, he/she has inadvertently done something disrespectful out of ignorance, and will be politely told about it. Would you not expect an apology from the person along the lines of "I'm sorry, I didn't realize..."?

This actually happened to me when another fellow and I were docents on a church tour of my parish. We were both talking to other visitors when a woman did exactly what I described (we had previously announced the fact that the altar was off-limits, but she either hadn't hear it or had come in late and missed it).

I agree with you on the legal aspect, the failure of the park authorities, the PC angle, etc., but I do not agree that all of that somehow excuses us from exhibiting common courtesy.

Aaron, you have a good point. It is appropriate for Christians to want to both encourage others to become Christian, and therefore to evangelize, and to use Christian charity liberally when not actively evangelizing to help grease the wheels of an eventual possibility that more opportune evangelization might take place. As a result, sometimes accommodating someone's sensibilities -even when those sensibilities are unreasonable in themselves - is not necessarily the same as "giving in" or "agreeing with" those sensibilities, any more than tolerating evil for a time is the same thing as approving of the evil.

Lydia, when my first kids were little, we made a concerted effort to teach them to apologize and ask forgiveness when they did something wrong to another person, to get used to saying "I am sorry, I did something wrong" in such cases. Later on, we had to add a new category of occasions in which to say "I am sorry", not when they were apologizing for doing something wrong, but commiserating with someone who suffers, ESPECIALLY when our own act is the occasion of their suffering even though our act was not wrong. This simple act of saying "I am so sorry you are hurting," and sometimes adding "is there some way I can help" does a world of good in relieving tensions between people who otherwise might come to real antagonism over what starts as something small. It does not convey the notion "I was wrong to park my cane where it tripped you" or anything of the sort - at least, it need not do so. If the act that was the occasion of the problem really was fine for you to do, by commiserating you are not committing to not doing it again, merely by expressing that you wish it had not had the result of someone else coming to harm. (This, by the way, is the distinction that lies at the heart of false apologies of celebrities: "I am sorry if anyone decided to take offence at my innocent comment" conveys nothing of sorrow at having done something wrong.)

That being said, I suspect that this furor was created by "professional" Maoris who make a business out of finding fault with people who don't cater to indigenous peoples. It is not all that useful to try to soothe the sensibilities of such people (it's pretty much a lose/lose attempt), but unless you are fairly confident that the person you are dealing with is this sort, erring on the side of assuming their good will is reasonable and charitable. So, to the extent that the objections may have been "professional" in nature, the apology was probably not useful and may have been counterproductive, but to the extent that the youth group was surprised into reacting and had, perhaps, no confidence about whether the objections were merely political or were sincere, it would not have been unreasonable to react to them as if sincere.

But either way, it does little good to become "professional" Christians trying to find fault with people whose sensibilities are hurt over (perhaps) honest mistakes. Romans 14 certainly disapproves that idea.

"Suppose one of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest declared the entire shoreline to be sacred and cried foul that common beach activities were a desecration. Would you say that Christians should no longer enjoy the beach or fish along the shoreline out of mutual respect?"

Of course not. There is a rational, prudential way to respond to such issues on a case-by-case basis, so to speak. As Aaron says, these things do not lend themselves to blanket applications of universal principles one way or the other.

Although I posted Romans 14 in support of being charitable, in fairness, I should post Wisdom 13 and 14 in support of Lydia's position:

Wis 13

[1] For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
and they were unable from the good things that
are seen to know him who exists,
nor did they recognize the craftsman while
paying heed to his works;
[2] but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air,
or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
[3] If through delight in the beauty of these things
men assumed them to be gods,
let them know how much better than these is their Lord,
for the author of beauty created them.
[4] And if men were amazed at their power and working,
let them perceive from them
how much more powerful is he who formed them.
[5] For from the greatness and beauty of created things
comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
[6] Yet these men are little to be blamed,
for perhaps they go astray
while seeking God and desiring to find him.
[7] For as they live among his works they keep searching,
and they trust in what they see, because the
things that are seen are beautiful.
[8] Yet again, not even they are to be excused;
[9] for if they had the power to know so much
that they could investigate the world,
how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?

[10] But miserable, with their hopes set on dead things, are the men
who give the name "gods" to the works of men's hands,
gold and silver fashioned with skill,
and likenesses of animals,
or a useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.
[11] A skilled woodcutter may saw down a tree easy to handle
and skilfully strip off all its bark,
and then with pleasing workmanship
make a useful vessel that serves life's needs,
[12] and burn the castoff pieces of his work
to prepare his food, and eat his fill.
[13] But a castoff piece from among them, useful for nothing,
a stick crooked and full of knots,
he takes and carves with care in his leisure,
and shapes it with skill gained in idleness;
he forms it like the image of a man,
[14] or makes it like some worthless animal,
giving it a coat of red paint and coloring its surface red
and covering every blemish in it with paint;
[15] then he makes for it a niche that befits it,
and sets it in the wall, and fastens it there with iron.
[16] So he takes thought for it, that it may not fall,
because he knows that it cannot help itself,
for it is only an image and has need of help.
[17] When he prays about possessions and his marriage and children,
he is not ashamed to address a lifeless thing.
[18] For health he appeals to a thing that is weak;
for life he prays to a thing that is dead;
for aid he entreats a thing that is utterly inexperienced;
for a prosperous journey, a thing that cannot take a step;
[19] for money-making and work and success with his hands
he asks strength of a thing whose hands have no strength.

Wis 14
[1] Again, one preparing to sail and about to voyage
over raging waves
calls upon a piece of wood more fragile than
the ship which carries him.
[2] For it was desire for gain that planned that vessel,
and wisdom was the craftsman who built it;
[3] but it is thy providence, O Father, that steers its course,
because thou hast given it a path in the sea,
and a safe way through the waves,
[4] showing that thou canst save from every danger,
so that even if a man lacks skill, he may put to sea.
[5] It is thy will that works of thy wisdom should
not be without effect;
therefore men trust their lives even to the
smallest piece of wood,
and passing through the billows on a raft they
come safely to land.
[6] For even in the beginning, when arrogant giants were perishing,
the hope of the world took refuge on a raft,
and guided by thy hand left to the world the
seed of a new generation.
[7] For blessed is the wood by which righteousness comes.

[8] But the idol made with hands is accursed, and
so is he who made it;
because he did the work, and the perishable
thing was named a god.
[9] For equally hateful to God are the ungodly
man and his ungodliness,
[10] for what was done will be punished together
with him who did it.
[11] Therefore there will be a visitation also upon
the heathen idols,
because, though part of what God created, they
became an abomination,
and became traps for the souls of men
and a snare to the feet of the foolish.

[12] For the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication,
and the invention of them was the corruption of life,
[13] for neither have they existed from the beginning
nor will they exist for ever.
[14] For through the vanity of men they entered the world,
and therefore their speedy end has been planned.
[15] For a father, consumed with grief at an untimely bereavement,
made an image of his child, who had been suddenly
taken from him;
and he now honored as a god what was once a dead human being,
and handed on to his dependents secret rites and initiations.
[16] Then the ungodly custom, grown strong with
time, was kept as a law,
and at the command of monarchs graven images were worshiped.
[17] When men could not honor monarchs in their
presence, since they lived at a distance,
they imagined their appearance far away,
and made a visible image of the king whom they honored,
so that by their zeal they might flatter the
absent one as though present.
[18] Then the ambition of the craftsman impelled
even those who did not know the king to intensify
their worship.
[19] For he, perhaps wishing to please his ruler,
skilfully forced the likeness to take more beautiful form,
[20] and the multitude, attracted by the charm of his work,
now regarded as an object of worship the one
whom shortly before they had honored as a man.
[21] And this became a hidden trap for mankind,
because men, in bondage to misfortune or to royal authority,
bestowed on objects of stone or wood the name
that ought not to be shared.
[22] Afterward it was not enough for them to err
about the knowledge of God,
but they live in great strife due to ignorance,
and they call such great evils peace.
[23] For whether they kill children in their initiations,
or celebrate secret mysteries,
or hold frenzied revels with strange customs,
[24] they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure,
but they either treacherously kill one another,
or grieve one another by adultery,
[25] and all is a raging riot of blood and murder,
theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury,
[26] confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favors,
pollution of souls, sex perversion,
disorder in marriage, adultery, and debauchery.
[27] For the worship of idols not to be named
is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
[28] For their worshipers either rave in exultation,
or prophesy lies,
or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
[29] for because they trust in lifeless idols
they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.
[30] But just penalties will overtake them on two counts:
because they thought wickedly of God in devoting
themselves to idols,
and because in deceit they swore unrighteously
through contempt for holiness.
[31] For it is not the power of the things by which men swear,
but the just penalty for those who sin,
that always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous.

The Chicken

Refusing to apologize because you did nothing intentionally wrong?

Aaron, I have never given and wouldn't give that reason.

I understand perfectly the concept of apologizing/expressing regret for something unintentional. Stepping accidentally on someone's foot, for example. Throwing a ball and hitting someone you didn't know was there. Etc.

I do not believe that this applies when wildly unreasonable demands for special accommodation and deference are made of the general public on behalf of a false religion, especially as the apology indicates that such demands should be and will be complied with in the future.

Lydia, the bit about unintentional harm was in reference to someone else's comment, not one of yours. I regret saying it as harshly as I did, though. Bad manners on my own part!

Chicken, good quote. Using the right time and place to be effective, leading someone to the truth about God is much more important that apologizing (or not apologizing) for hurt feelings. Is Lydia's position a claim that the moment when a pagan claims sacredness of a mountain to be, by that very fact, a propitious time to evangelize them directly? Lydia is usually more realistic than that: it depends on many other facts and circumstances.

This is from the Park's Tramping Guide,

"Mt Taranaki has great spiritual significance to local Maori: the crater and summit is the sacred head of Taranaki, the rocks and ridge are his bones, rivers his blood and plants and trees are his cloak and offer protection from the weather."

"Please respect the mountain, we ask that you do not stand directly on the summit stone, and do not litter or camp on the summit."

The ranger was doing his job. The rules should be expressed better and, after viewing the video, cooking should definitely be ruled out.

"...and barbecuing is a perfectly normal, expected activity to take place in the great outdoors at a public park."

Sigh, you flatland Easterners. This is no city park, it's the top of an 8,200' mountain in a National park with a lot of sensitive habitat. Getting to the top requires a strenuous hike (the steps run out and then it's scrambling over boulders. In the winter, mountaineering skills are required and folks regularly die up there.

BBQs and the like should not be allowed as a matter of sound environmental policy. Carrying a couch is sort of dumb and should be likewise prohibited. These folks seem to have been good citizens but others won't be. Oh, try carrying a BBQ and a couch up Half Dome or Mt. Rushmore and see how far you get.

"Step2, I'm getting a little tired of saying this: It isn't a church, so that's a poor analogy..."

"There is no obligation on the part of government, speaking generally, to accommodate false religions."

Land sakes! How dare those heathen savages expect good Christian folk to abide by their customs! And worshiping their pagan gods on a mountain and not in a proper church...well, I never! Of course, the New Zealand Bill of Rights, like ours, respects the rights of all religions - even "false" ones.

Also it seems there are Treaty of Waitangi issues that persist,

"The Treaty of Waitangi, which may indicate limits in our polity on majority decision making. The law may sometimes accord a special recognition to Māori rights and interests such as those covered by Article 2 of the Treaty. And in many other cases the law and its processes should be determined by the general recognition in Article 3 of the Treaty that Māori belong, as citizens, to the whole community. In some situations, autonomous Māori institutions have a role within the wider constitutional and political system. In other circumstances, the model provided by the Treaty of Waitangi of two parties negotiating and agreeing with one another is appropriate. Policy and procedure in this area continues to evolve."

While being a National Park is the best use of the mountain and surrounds (IMHO), title was possibly acquired in a dubious manner and under present NZ sensibilities (e.g. the Waitangi Tribunal), it's not unreasonable for visitors to show a little respect.

"We're talking about almost literally tiptoeing around an ostensibly "sacred" mountain just because some pagans say that it's sacred. That seems to me extremely problematic, eerie, even. It's really a matter of internalizing their norms, though under the rubric of "respect."

What sources did you find that would justify your use of the term "ostensibly" and the quotes around "sacred"? Even a cursory search around official NZ sources establishes that the mountain is sacred to the Maori. It's good for the rest of us to be provided with these reminders that our cultural conservatives' concerns are with their rights and not so much the rights of the rest of us.

Those with JSTOR access may find this helpful.


Al, I am well aware that NZ does not have US jurisprudence on establishment of religion and that the Maori get a special pass in this regard. That's why the blogger I originally linked called Maori animism, with some justice, the established religion of NZ. That's why in my thought experiment I transferred the situation to the U.S.

I put scare quotes around "sacred" because I don't agree that the mountain is sacred. That should be clear enough.

Tony, I'm a little surprised, because you usually read my comments more carefully. I expressly addressed the evangelization issue in response to the Chicken. Here was my reply on that:


And I walked through a line of reasoning that I don't think you've given due consideration to: If you're up there with just your group and you don't stand on the summit rock of the mountain because of "Maori sensibilities," when it's plausible that no one with such sensibilities will even find out what you have done, how is this not internalizing pagan sensibilities? I've also pointed out that apologizing indicates that, indeed, you would thus act according to these sensibilities from now on, voluntarily, even (presumably) when alone.

Tempest in a teapot, but that's what makes thought experiments fun.

Al, I am all for having a government, IN PRINCIPLE, give special recognition to special religious sensibilities. In principle, the government ought to pay more attention and give more deference to religions that make claims that are rational and intelligible to all people, and are backed up by sufficient facts and proofs as to make their claims reasonable. Christianity fits the bill quite nicely. A government ought to, in principle, give less deference to religions that claim things that are irrational and cannot be conformed to reality with substantive support, like saying a mountain is divine. Pagan religions fit that bill quite nicely. If a government decides that, due strictly to historic reasons, it is in the common interest to grant some special accommodation to an irrational religion, it should do so with a great deal of attention to how far that ought to be granted. The NZ DOC clearly forgot to take sufficient care for the circumstances. But I am sure they will get on the job now.

Lydia, that's why I was doubting that Chicken's citation was exactly supporting your position. Thanks for clearing that up.

In the US, a comparable suggestion that we might set off a mountain, or a "whole shoreline" as divine is a non-starter, because the historical basis (for that kind of accommodation) is not a given: the Indians didn't treat a whole mountain or shoreline as divine, and once there have been 3 or 4 generations of intervening treatment by others that does not make room for such divine sacredness, the "accommodation" would be a matter of dis-possessing a great many people out of a currently held good - a much more serious intrusion to the common good.

It is actually a better analogy, I think, to talk about the US outlawing the use of peyote in Indian religious rituals. Although I am rather stronger than many conservatives about insisting that there is a clear need for laws against drugs, I am ambivalent about outlawing peyote in such a way that it de-facto outlaws Navajo religious practices. Even though those religious practices are in a false religion, it is less than obvious that outlawing those practices is better for the common good than a more narrowly defined law that outlaws peyote for all drug uses EXCEPT for Indian religious practices. I am only slightly acquainted with the jurisprudence on this, the last I read, I think the courts were upholding the US law.

~~I put scare quotes around "sacred" because I don't agree that the mountain is sacred~~

Which is completely unnecessary. When I say that the Koran is the sacred book of the Muslims, it doesn't mean that I believe it's a sacred book in any objective sense. As Aaron said above, it's a simple matter of English usage.

I don't think that's a particularly good analogy, Tony, because my concern is requiring non-adherents to defer in what would otherwise be their normal and uncontroversial use of an outside resource to the sensibilities of adherents. Banning adherents from doing something that is part of their religion is just a different question altogether. I'm not saying whether I agree with you or not on that one; I'm just saying it's not at all like requiring nonadherents to behave as though they are adherents--e.g., not standing on the summit rock, for example.

Ok, that's a valid distinction. I am going to stand down.

I think Lydia's making a good point about unconsciously internalizing the pagan world view. I'm not convinced, though. It's such a foreign view, even to our secularized Christian culture, that the only people who will really internalize the paganism of it are people who are already disposed to do so - New Age, "spiritual" types mostly.

For most people, it's more like, "These Maoris really, really don't want us to barbecue at this particular spot. I think it has something to do with ancestors. OK, whatever, we'll barbecue over there instead."

Which is how it should be. I haven't mentioned this before, but that's how it is for me. What matters to me is that it's (presumably) very important to this one group of people, and not that horrible an inconvenience to that other group of people. The whole religious angle is secondary, though I can understand why some Christians think otherwise.

I think I have discovered a crucial distinction. If a delusional man thinks that if he eats from a silver spoon his mother will wind up in the hospital and accidentally give him a silver spoon when he comes to my house, it is perfectly charitable to apologize for causing him mental pain, even if he is wrong in his belief. My apology is not an acknowledgement of his belief, but of his pain, which is very real, despite his error.

The reason this does not apply to the Maori is because they have no excuse for their mistaken belief (God being able to be known by his works). It proceeds from negligence, not infirmity. They have no right to their pain. The apology can not relate to something real.

The Chicken

~~The reason this does not apply to the Maori is because they have no excuse for their mistaken belief (God being able to be known by his works). It proceeds from negligence, not infirmity.~~

We cannot know this for sure. Only God truly knows if a person's ignorance is invincible or not. If we err, therefore, we should err on the side of charity.

There's another distinction, too, Chicken: If you apologized to the crazy man for causing him mental pain, you could also say, "But this is a delusion, and you should get some help for it." Moreover, society would back you up. A large, socially powerful, faction of silver-spoon-fearers, with an official representative acting as a government agent, announcing to the world that you have offended against the silver spoon gods and tacitly asking that you should apologize, stating that his agency "discourages" giving people silver spoons, and seeking a promise to take care never to feed anyone from a silver spoon again, is asking for a lot more than just a pitying statement to a single man that you are sorry to have caused him pain as a result of his strange delusion. The idea that this is a strange delusion is nowhere in the picture, and if you apologize without stating that this _is_ a delusion, you will be doing a lot more than just expressing pity for someone poor and deluded.

We cannot know this for sure. Only God truly knows if a person's ignorance is invincible or not. If we err, therefore, we should err on the side of charity.

God did reveal to mankind that He made every human aware of His existence from the start, but it is man's sinfulness that suppressed that knowledge. We ought to not indulge their ignorance, but rather gently correct them. We don't accomplish that by working with, rather against, their problem.

"Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who despitefully use you."

Again, this is a Golden Rule thing. If it applies to those who are actively our enemies, does it not apply even more to "peaceful pagans"?

Seriously, I just don't get all the nitpicking over an apology offered as a simple gesture of charity.

We cannot know this for sure. Only God truly knows if a person's ignorance is invincible or not. If we err, therefore, we should err on the side of charity.

One can be uncharitable in the exercise of charity. Fraternal correction is no less an act of charity. Even invincible ignorance is still ignorance. If a surgeon believes from invincible ignorance that his patient is the one actually listed on the chart but is not (it has happened), should I let him proceed with the surgery, if I am in a position to know better? Should I apologize for staying his hand?

The difference between that and the silver-spooner is that fraternal correction is useless to a delusional man. Even Adrian Monk, who is not delusional and knows his behavior is not in accord with reason (if he is honest with himself) might be apologized to for causing him pain, but even he cannot take offense if you remind him of the truth, now-and-again.

In the modern era, in a place like New Zealand, invincible ignorance becomes less likely, since they have access to libraries and the Internet.

Part of the problem comes, I think from a misunderstanding of Ecumenism. In the old days, Catholics and Protestants were up front about their differences. After the misapplication of Vatican II, only the similarities have been stressed and each side has been less confrontational. All well and good to a point, since both sides are united in their love for Christ, although they differ in how and what that is, but I am afraid that we have gone too far in accommodation, especially with non-Christian religions. In part, that has allowed such things as Wicca, New Age, and other movements to flourish. I am afraid that societies need to be challenged, even to the point of martyrdom, otherwise, we do risk being responsible for the resurrection of Ba'al.

Rob G., this would have been a very different kind of "apology":

"We are sorry if our actions caused pain to the Maori because of their false belief that the mountain is an ancestor. We are unwilling, however, to agree never to stand on the summit rock of the mountain or never to cook on the mountain again, as we consider this Maori animist belief to be false and dangerous and consider that self-monitoring by non-adherents to act in accordance with the norms of this religion would be giving this religion a status it does not and should not possess. We hope that the Maori will abandon their worship of nature and come to believe in the one true God who made all things. Then they will not be caused pain by the strange delusion that someone has been eating on their ancestor."

The problem lies not in some sort of vague expression of regret but in the tacit promise to *abide by the tapu* in future.

I cannot understand why this is so unclear. I think it must be a lack of imagination. Think of the most outrageous part of this--the demand that they not stand on the summit rock. Try to imagine vividly for a minute literally saying, "Oops, I'd better not stand there" or "Oops, you'd better not go stand there" when _no one else is even present but your own group_ just because it violates an animist "tapu." If that image doesn't bother you, it should. It would be like never stepping on the cracks of the sidewalk, even when you're alone, because someone _else_ believes it will break his mother's back! This is not courtesy. This is insanity. If I had such insane ideas, it would certainly not be a "Golden Rule" thing for other people to play up to them like that.

"Should I apologize for staying his hand?"

Yes, if you happen to hurt him in the process.

"Fraternal correction is no less an act of charity."

Absolutely, and I'm all for it. But I don't see the two as mutually exclusive.

OK then. The non-Orthodox Christian who mistakenly walked into the altar area of our church tour comes back one day. There is no one around. She doesn't believe that any particular part of a church should be "taboo" to a Christian (she's a low church Protestant) and decides that she's going to check out those altar icons after all.

Would she be "insane" if she thought twice about it and refrained from doing so? Or would she simply be courteous?

Rob, you just keep going back to that example as though you are literally incapable of seeing the problem with it. The reason that courtesy enters into that case is because it's a case of "your house, your rules." The church is an Orthodox church. That's what it _is_. That's the nature of the structure. It's a man-made building set up for the purpose of Orthodox worship.

In contrast, we are talking here about a public, outdoor location, a mountain, and about standing on the summit rock, which is something a climber would _normally do_ after climbing a mountain. It is not a Maori church. It was not a manmade structure created by the Maori for purposes of Maori worship. It is not a case of "their house, their rules," and it is, in fact, discourteous _of them_ to ask non-adherents to treat a mountain summit that is not the private property of the Maori, that the non-adherents have gone to the trouble to climb, in a special way different from the way one would normally treat an outdoor mountain summit just because the Maori demand that they do so on the basis of their religion. The very conditions that create and support the "courtesy" claim in the case of the church do not exist here. We have here a bare demand that a particular section of a mountain, a natural object, made by God, that is not private to the adherents of a particular religion, be tiptoed around by non-adherents as though they were adherents.

Combined with the fact that the religion in question is false and irrational, what we have is adherents of a false and irrational religion demanding that non-adherents behave like adherents in their ordinary behavior in an outdoor park, vis a vis a huge natural object, a mountain, that the non-adherents happen to be walking on.

Yes, it's insanity to comply with that.

You are the one, Rob, who says that these things have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Yet your own use of inapt analogies, your insistence on them, and your poorly reasoned and repeated invocations of the Golden Rule, make it difficult to see how you could ever draw such a line. If the Maori did say, and you believed them, that they would be "hurt" and that it would violate their "tapu" if hikers drank water while climbing the mountain, why would your principles not mean that it was "only courteous" to refrain from drinking water while climbing the mountain? After all, it would seem like it could be reasonable for some religion to ask that you not take drinks into their church (heck, libraries used to tell you not to bring drinks into the stacks!), and since you see a strong analogy between church--mountain and refuse to drop the analogy, I can't see why you would draw the line there. I think it's time for you to see that it's a really poor analogy.

I know, I know: A...MOUNTAIN...IS...NOT...A... CHURCH!!!!!!!

Sorry, but all the argument in the world is not going to convince me that when you offend someone's sensibilities in this way, you don't need to apologize to them just because you disagree with them or think that their sensibilities are incorrect or inane.

Honey does, in fact, catch more flies than vinegar. I'll stick with the former.

That difference, Rob, is the entire crux on which the courtesy question hangs. If you Orthodox suddenly told someone that you are offended at the direction in which he chooses to walk around the block, it would be discourteous of you, and no Golden Rule question would apply. If I started trying to co-opt outdoor locations and dictate people's normal behavior in those locations, I _should_ be told that others will not comply. That would even be best _for me_, in response to that sort of arrogance and attempted supremacism.

And I notice you sidestep the water bottle example. No doubt you could make up more yourself.

"And I notice you sidestep the water bottle example. No doubt you could make up more yourself"

Yep. And each one would need to be looked at individually. And as you said above, there's also an infinite regress working. Do you apologize to those who are offended because you apologized in the first place? What about the ones who are offended by that apology? Etc., etc.

As someone indicated above, the real fault here is with the park service. If it really is a Maori sacred place something should be posted, or an area set off, or whatever. BUT...I still don't think that the park service's failure excuses me from apologizing for an inadvertent offense. Like I said above, it's just manners.

With that, I will bow out.

Is it just this mountain or all mountains that are sacred to the Maori?

What about eating hamburger in India?

According to the Golden Rule, if I am in error, since I would like someone to gently point it out, shouldn't I do the same for others?

Finally, the park ranger - is he Maori? If not, you really don't owe him the apology, since he wasn't hurt by the matter. One might respond, " Oh," as an acknowledgement of the information, but he has no right to the apology. If the visitor wanders up to the altar icons and I happen to know that the Orthodox would not want that, I would inform her, but I should not expect her to apologize to me, since I am not Orthodox. Even if one wishes to be charitable to a real Maori, apologizing to the Maori by proxy to the park ranger makes no sense unless one believes that he has a right to enforce the activity in their name, which I assume he doesn't.

In any case, this argument of what to do falls under prudential judgment and men of good-will, such as Lyia and Rob can disagree without incurring sin.

By the way, putting the blame on the park system was my comment, above.

The Chicken

Don't know about all the mountains, Chicken, but my impression is that it's going to end up being more than one, anyway.

The DOC guy is Maori by birth and, according to the blog post where I first read about this, is what you might call an adult convert to animism.

Much of Lydia's argument seems to be premised on the fact that a mountain top is not like a church. While I understand (and, as an atheist, sympathize) with the view that it is ridiculous to actually believe a mountaintop is sacred, it seems extremely parochial to insist that the only religions that get their sacred places recognized are those that do so in the exact way that we are used to. As Lydia's extreme counterexamples indicated (breathing on the sidewalk outside one's house), there have to be some limitations, but the Maori's designation of their sacred place 1) seems fully in line with the practices of numerous animistic religions practice by millions and 2) is not unduly restrictive (they don't require people to refrain from breathing or even from completely avoiding the location, just not cooking on it or standing in certain places).

Further, Lydia scoffs at the Maori in effect roping off or limiting access to a whole mountaintop in the middle of a public park as if the NZ government founded the park and then the Maoris had the chutzpah to declare a big chunk of it off limits (a similar sentiment was expressed by a comment posing the hypothetical of NW Native American tribes deciding to declare a whole section of the coastline sacred), when really the mountain has likely been sacred to the Maoris for centuries and the NZ government decided to establish a public park on and around it. Mountains are big, but not that big, and it sounds like the restrictions the Maoris have imposed 1) don't apply to every part of the mountain and 2) allow a decent amount of access to park goers. I don't see how in the world those conditions couldn't be a reasonable position for the Maori to take in exchange for agreeing that a public park be established on one of their holy places.

agreeing that a public park be established

As far as I know, this question is legally moot and is not correct. The Maori aren't giving anything to anyone. One has to engage in some long-past historical reparations-think in order to phrase the matter this way. American jurisprudence also doesn't seem to agree with this, as though all "native holy places" are both de jure and de facto "owned" by the native peoples and only graciously "lent" to the rest of us for a public park, in return for which we have to observe all manner of odd and otherwise unexpected restrictions in their use. As far as I can tell, the answer to my moot court exercise is not only that logically the establishment jurisprudence _should_ regard such rules, if promulgated as actual rules with penalties by a government agency, but _would_ regard such mandatory rules as an establishment of religion. Native religions don't get special establishment treatment just because they are native religions. Nor should they.

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