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U.S. Department of State
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice

According to the 1996 census, 60.6 percent of citizens identified themselves as Christian or as affiliated members of individual Christian denominations, while less than 3 percent were affiliated with non-Christian religions.

The four major Christian denominations of Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist experienced a decline in membership between 1991 and 1996, with the proportion of the population affiliated with these denominations falling from 57.6 percent to 49.1 percent. Anglicans remained by far the largest Christian denomination, with 18 percent of the population in 1996. Pentecostals were the only major Christian group to experience significant growth (55 percent) during the same period. Among non-Christian religions, the numbers of Buddhists and Muslims more than doubled, while the number of Hindus increased by approximately 50 percent, although each of these groups still constitute less than 1 percent of the population. The number of persons who indicated no religious affiliation also increased markedly between 1991 and 1996, rising by 33 percent to over a quarter of the population. The indigenous Maori (approximately 9 percent of the population) are overwhelmingly members of Presbyterian, Latter-Day Saints, Ratana, Ringatu, and other faiths.

According to 1996 census data, the following are the numbers and percentages of the population's religious affiliation: Anglican--631,764 (18.42 percent); Catholic--473,112 (13.79 percent); Presbyterian--458,289 (13.36 percent); Methodist--121,650 (3.55 percent); Baptist--53,613 (1.56 percent); Latter-Day Saints--41,166 (1.20 percent); Pentecostal--39,228 (1.14 percent); Ratana (a Maori/Christian group with services in the Maori language)--36,450 (1.06 percent); Buddhist--28,131 (0.82 percent); Hindu--25,293 (0.74 percent); Brethren--19,950 (0.58 percent); Jehovah's Witnesses--19,524 (0.57 percent); Assemblies of God--17,520 (0.51 percent); Salvation Army--14,625 (0.43 percent); Islam--13,548 (0.39 percent); Seventh-Day Adventist--12,324 (0.36 percent); Apostolic Church of New Zealand--8,913 (0.26 percent); Congregational--8,838 (0.26 percent); Ringatu (a Maori/Christian group with services in the Maori language)--8,268 (0.24 percent); Orthodox Christian--6,936 (0.20 percent); Spiritualist--5,097 (0.15 percent); Lutheran--5,007 (0.15 percent); Jewish--4,812 (0.14 percent); Churches of Christ--4,233 (0.12 percent); Reformed--3,288 (0.10 percent); Baha'i--3,111 (0.09 percent); Elim--3,018 (0.09 percent); Sikh--2,814 (0.08 percent); Protestant--2,778 (0.08 percent); Exclusive Brethren--1,986 (0.06 percent); Christadelphians--1,743 (0.05 percent); Uniting/Union Church--1,728 (0.05 percent); evangelical--1,584 (0.05 percent); Religious Society of Friends--1,161 (0.03 percent); Satanist--909 (0.03 percent); Worldwide Church of God--624 (0.02 percent); Rastafarianism--582 (0.02 percent); Taoism--561 (0.02 percent); Nazarene--459 (0.01 percent); Hauhau--408 (0.01 percent); Christian Science--294 (0.01 percent); Revival Centres--273 (0.01 percent); Unitarian--267 (0.01 percent); Hare Krishna--258 (0.01 percent); Church of Scientology--216 (0.01 percent); Commonwealth Covenant Church--168 (0.00 percent); Unification Church--135 (0.00 percent); other Christian--188,670 (5.50 percent); other non-Christian--4,596 (0.13 percent); other response including no religion--893,910 (26.06 percent); object to statement--256,593 (7.48 percent); not specified--187,881 (5.50 percent); total--3,618,303 (100.00 percent).

The Auckland statistical area (which accounts for roughly 30 percent of the country's total population) exhibits the greatest religious diversity. Farther south on the north island, and on the south island, the percentage of citizens who identify themselves with Christian faiths increases while those affiliated with non-Christian religions decreases.

The Education Act of 1964 specifies in its "secular clause" that teaching within public primary schools "shall be entirely of a secular character." However, it also permits religious instruction and observances in state primary schools within certain parameters. If the school committee in consultation with the principal or head teacher so determines, any class may be closed at any time of the school day within specified limits for the purposes of religious instruction given by voluntary instructors. Attendance at religious instruction or observances is not compulsory. According to the Legal Division of the Ministry of Education, public secondary schools also may permit religious instruction at the discretion of their individual school boards. The Ministry of Education does not keep centralized data on how many individual primary or secondary schools permit religious instruction or observances, but a curriculum division spokesperson maintains that in practice religious instruction, if it occurs at a particular school, usually is scheduled after normal school hours.

Under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act of 1975, the Government, in response to a burgeoning general primary school role and financial difficulties experienced by a large group of Catholic parochial schools, permitted the incorporation of private schools into the public school system. Designated as "integrated schools," they were deemed to be of a "unique character" and permitted to receive public funding provided that they allowed space for non-preference students. A total of 303 of the 2,784 primary schools are integrated schools with this designation. More than 250 of these 303 schools are Catholic; there are a handful of non-Christian or non-religious schools (e.g. Islamic, Hare Krishna, or Rudolph Steiner--a school of spiritual philosophy). Primary school students are not required to attend an integrated school.

Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday are official holidays. The small but growing non-Christian communities called for the Government to take into account the increasingly diverse religious makeup regarding holiday flexibility.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Amicable relations exist between the various religious communities.

Incidents of religiously-motivated violence are extremely rare. Due to the infrequency of their occurrence and difficulties in clearly establishing such motivations, the police do not attempt to track data on crimes that may be motivated by religion. However, in one recent example, arsonists burned the Islamic mosque in Hamilton on August 6, 1998. The mosque had been erected in early 1998 and had been vandalized numerous times in the months preceding the arson attack. To date authorities have not apprehended any suspects and cannot state with certainty whether race or religion motivated the incidents. The mosque was rebuilt in late 1998, and an estimated 1,000 Muslims celebrated the end of the month of Ramadan in Hamilton in January 1999. Despite the incident, the regional Muslim association president reported receiving moral support from a broad spectrum of groups, and attributed the incident to "just one or two individuals that caused this to happen."

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 11-09-1999