Generally I am not a fan of Post Modern ways of thinking; frequently what I see propagated under that banner is irrational and incoherent but made to look profound through the use of sophisticated sounding intellectualised language. However, one idea often touted as “post modern” I find plausible, at least in some contexts. This is the notion that appeals to objectivity (in the sense of neutrality) are not neutral at all. They are rather concealed attempts to ensure hegemony of ones own position.
I was reminded of this recently when I was reading the webpage of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH). The latest press realise on this page is as follows:
Ms McKenzie said that while NZARH would not oppose charitable work that directly
eases poverty in Melanesia, it is inappropriate for the Government of New Zealand to allow tax exemptions for that part of the Trust’s work which is purely missionary or purely commercial. She said the politicians cited in today’s New Zealand Herald report of the Trust’s activities should understand that Parliament is not a church and elected politicians are not elected to advance the cause of any particular religion’s missionary activities.”Even the poorest people in New Zealand pay tax, yet this multi-million dollar trust doesn’t want to pay tax like the rest of us. If religious trusts such as these paid tax and property rates like the rest of us, it would reduce the individual tax burden considerably. Tax privileges based on religion should be a thing of the past.””If Parliament was passing a Bill advantaging the Scientologists
or the Destiny Church in this way there would be uproar.
Elizabeth McKenzie is NZARH’s president and in this release she speaks on speaking on behalf of NZARH. Here argument is worth noting she maintains  that government should not advance the cause of “any particular religion’s missionary activities”  to grant tax exemption to an organisation whose work is missionary is to give it a privilege not granted to “the rest of us” and constitutes advancing its causes. The appeal seems to be to some concept of impartiality or equality. Religious groups should not get tax relief that everyone else does not get unless their work is purely charitable.
What I found interesting about this is that a some months ago I picked up NZARH’s journal The Open Society (former called The New Zealand Rationalist Humanist) and on the back page where addresses of various “Humanist organisations” are listed there is reference to a “New Zealand Humanist Charitable Trust’. NZARH’s 2001 journal has an entire article on this charitable trust. It states that “The named beneficiaries in the Trust deed are HSNZ and the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH)” [emphasis mine] This article also tells us that the trusts purpose is not purely charitable, one of its functions is to “Provide funding for seminars and other educational activities to promote public understanding and discussion of ethics and Humanism;” and the article tells us that NZARH could use it to fund visiting speakers.
So, NZARH apparently have no problem with Humanist Charitable Trusts, will gladly promote them and be the beneficiaries of them, and will use these trusts for promoting their own “particular secular missionary activities”. Despite the fact that “Even the poorest people in New Zealand pay tax,” despite the fact that “If humanist trusts such as these paid tax and property rates like the rest of us, it would reduce the individual tax burden considerably”. It’s interesting two that for all the rampant condemnation of religious charities on their site. NZARH is oddly silent about the New Zealand Humanist Society which, according to the March 2004 issue of the New Zealand Humanist, has tax exempt status and which had an article explaining what they needed to do to maintain this status. In fact NZARH appear on their site to promote the NZ Humanist Society.
The key phrase word in NZARH’s release is the word “religious trusts”. It apparently has no problem with the state giving tax credits to (and hence by their logic advancing and privileging) humanist organisations. It therefore appears to advocate a situationthe state advances the agendas of opponents of religious belief get state assistance but religious groups get no such assistance and are prohibited from getting it. Ironically it does this in the name of equality. However this is not equality it is rigging the deck in their favour. NZARH is advancing economic discrimination by the state in its favour and against its ideological opponents.