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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Sour Charity

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 26th February 2009

As previous contributors have noted, the recession is hitting LGBT community groups hard. However, what about our political opponents, amidst the current global turmoil?

The Clark administration inflicted some fairly heavy blows on the Christian Right during its near-decade in power, and as of now, there are five major Christian Right pressure groups left in this country- Right to Life New Zealand and Voice for Life (anti-abortionists), Family First, the Society for Promotion of Community Standards and the Maxim Institute. What are their survival prospects?

Continued financial hardships are reducing the potential disposable income available for mainstream charities, let alone Christian Right pressure groups. Add to that diminished membership revenues due to membership attrition from ageing and mortality, expensive overheads like staff remuneration, newsletters and website maintenance or postal costs, as well as high risk ventures like court or regulatory tribunal cases, and one can see that the Christian Right may end up weeded out during the current recession. If some of the above don't go into hiatus, they may face insolvency or bankruptcy.

Of the five major organisations listed above, Family First and the Maxim Institute may seem the most secure. However, as I've noted in previous Politics and Religion columns, Family First appears reliant on a network of small business donors, which are especially vulnerable to market segment contraction, and which may not be so willing to divert funds that are needed for their core business operations. The Maxim Institute is in a better position, although there will be even more incentive for the Business Roundtable and other New Right corporate donors to insist on rationalisation. Either there will be that long-rumoured Maxim Institute/Centre for Independent Studies merger, or else CIS will close its New Zealand facilities and leave the field to the Institute.

SPCS and the anti-abortionists are in especially unenviable positions. At least one of them may not make it through the current recession, and may be forced into suspension or cessation of activities due to the current economic climate.

How do I know this? New Zealand social historian Paul Christoffel published an intriguing piece on the alcohol prohibition lobby in the late nineteenth century up until the Great Depression. It's common wisdom that the returned services vote saved the country from alcohol prohibition in 1919. However, Christoffel contradicts this through demonstrating that the alcohol prohibition and brewery lobbyists still maintained influence until the Great Depression destroyed the viability of the alcohol prohibition movement through the organisational consequences that I've noted above.

Is history about to repeat itself?


Paul Christoffel: "Prohibition and the Myth of 1919" Journal of New Zealand History: 42:2: October 2008: 154-175.

Craig Young - 26th February 2009