New Zealand’s Associate Education Minister is a Creationist

In New Zealand, the Associate Education Minister John Banks just made a frightening revelation:

He’s a Creationist.

John Banks (Getty Images)

… he believes the Genesis account of the start of life on Earth.

According to the Bible, God made the world in six days, with Adam and Eve being his last act of creation.

“That’s what I believe, but I’m not going to impose my beliefs on other people, especially in this post-Christian society that we live in, especially in these lamentable times.”

“There are reactionaries out there, humanists in particular, that overrun the bureaucracies in Wellington and state education.”

Let’s hope he doesn’t impose his will on the students. Because the “reactionaries” he’s worried about appear to be the people who actually understand science.

It raises another question, too: Should Creationists be barred from holding such important posts? If he keeps his views out of his educational policies, I don’t really care what he believes. At least in America, though, people seem incapable of keeping their errant religious views out of their politics.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to the interview where Banks makes these claims, but if you hear anything interesting, leave the timestamp/summary in the comments.

(Thanks to Sam for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It raises another question, too: Should Creationists be barred from holding such important posts?

    Why not? And while we’re at it, why not appoint a Jehovah’s Witness as head of the Red Cross?

    • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andrew Brookfield

      What?

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Heaven forbid that humanists, (especially “reactionary” ones, gasp!) have any input in a nation’s education system!

  • JenniferT

    Should Creationists be barred from holding such important posts? Well, yeah. They actively reject reality. If that doesn’t make someone incompetent to hold a post in education, what does?

  • Susan

    As long as he keeps his beliefs private and doesn’t force them on the young in New Zealand, then I think that he should keep his position, as it would be discrimination to deny him the job because of his beliefs, and deny other people because of their beliefs, and, as an atheist myself, I  don’t want to discriminate people because of their silly beliefs

    Of course, I don’t like the thought of him being the education minister and believing that the world is only six thousand years old, as the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, but there is  little to do with this cause, I think, and the only thing we people with sense can do is to spread knowledge the best we can and hope that people open their eyes to what is logical and what isn’t.

    • A Reader

      I agree, it would be incredibly unethical to put religious restraints on things like this. At the same time, seriously, how does he not accept evolution? Most of the people in my mom’s church’s youth group even accept it (although they’ll say god directed it). And we’re talking about a Mennonite youth group.

    • Pete084

       You can’t keep beliefs and opinions out of politics, it’s human nature to submit to sub-concious thought, no matter how rational you think you may be, which is why policy is decided by committee (or cabinet, or senate.), and any government official obviously straying from policy should be removed from office, after suitable warning first of course!

    • http://twitter.com/GodlessAtheist Godless Atheist

      He is currently pushing for school that will allow teaching of creationism in science class under the guise of educational freedom.

  • Fritzy

    Of course they should be barred.  This guy demonstrates an obvious contempt for science; he has absolutely no business holding this position.  

    I have a hard time believing, no matter how sincere his statement may have been, that he will be able to divorce his beliefs from how he does his job.   Anyone who rails against “reactionary” humanists in a statement about his plan to remain impartial is lying to himself about his ability to maintain disinterest and keep his invisible friend out of the equation.

    • Conrad

      I find it quite telling that you say “I have a hard time believing…” Until you demonstrate that Mr. Banks is doing a poor job, you should leave him in office. The *only* criteria by which it is reasonable to measure him is by fitness to his position, and the only reasonable, repeatable way to do that is by looking at his record in his position as Associate Education Minister, not by his weird beliefs, hairstyle, or pr0n collection.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FRJD66AT6LQ6CZZ46XJO43A4FM Artor

    I think banning is unnecessary, and sets a dangerous precedent. Over here, we have that “No religious test for public office” clause, and I think it’s a good one. That said however, the moment an official tries to inject his anti-reality bias into the law, or education, they should be out on their ear, looking for work. Maybe their church can offer them a position? They don’t belong in public office if they can’t keep their religion to themselves.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    It is definitely disturbing that someone in an education position of such high authority believes a myth is true and factual.  However, I don’t think banning such people from these positions is an answer and definitely sets a dangour precedent.  As you said, as long as he doesn’t let that influence his decision making. 

    What does bother me, however, is that from his statements, he WANTS TO impose his beliefs via teaching but won’t because of the “reactionaries” in these “lamentable times.”  Were he not afraid of lawsuits, he’s definitely want to teach his mythology as fact.

  • http://seriouslywhimsical.wordpress.com/ Jennifer

    It would seem that any individual who clings to delusional ideas, be they unicorns, fairies or literal creationism, should not be considered mentally fit for any public office. If it is merely a matter of ignorance (i.e. they had a horribly deficient education and were not taught any better), then they are not well-educated enough for the position. If it is a matter of wilful ignorance (i.e. they had a decent education but chose to cling to irrational beliefs in invisible beings), then they are not mentally fit for the position and should receive psychiatric care.

    Ah, if only it could be that simple…

  • mikespeir

    Courage, like a lot of things, is largely in the eye of the beholder.  It does take some guts to admit what he did.  But it seems to me that a certain nobility properly inheres in the word “courage.”  I don’t see any nobility in espousing so obvious an error.

  • Blobulon.

    I don’t want to see anyone banned from public office because of their personal religious beliefs. That is revolting discrimination. It would also leave us with a skeleton government.
    It is good, however, to know who believes what, so the public can keep an eye on them and see if they start to make decisions that stem from their personal ideology.

    NZ is facing the specter of religious schools basically indoctrinating children with christianity, disregarding science, and teaching fallacious history; with public funding. Appalling.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7505051/School-faith-plan-raises-doubts

  • Santiago

    “Should Creationists be barred from holding such important posts?”

    Of course not  ;)

  • Deanegalbraith

    The interview does not quite reflect the media summary, and certainly casts doubt on whether John Banks is a literal 6-day creationist. See a transcript of relevant parts of the here: http://dunedinschool.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/new-zealands-associate-minister-of-education-john-banks-believes-in-adam-and-eve-but-not-evolution/

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Your link talks of his party’s (which holds only one seat – his) intent to introduce legislation to permit Charter Schools in the school system. Charter Schools that would be run by, for example, evangelical Christian organisations.

      Oh he’s not planning to introduce the teaching of Creationism to students in the NZ educational system, not at all, at all. No need to watch him carefully in case he lets his bias slip through. He’s already announced how and when he’s going to try.

      New Zealand’s multi-party system is showing a significant flaw here, I’m guessing. Please correct my suppositions if I am wrong, someone.

      Somehow (minority coalition?) his one vote has been parlayed into a senior government position for him, one that allows him to get significant leverage for his religious beliefs. 

      Does he really have the government over a barrel? Will they concede this to him rather than let their coalition fail?

      • http://www.facebook.com/dave.pearce.nz David Pearce

        You are right about the flaw in the multi-party system in NZ!  However, Associate Minister for Education is NOT a senior government position – it is not even in the cabinet.  He holds the position only so that he can manage through the legislation for charter schools.  And it was his one vote, and the coalition agreement he signed with the majority party, that enabled him to foist that policy on the government.  He does not have any leverage or influence over the rest of the education portfolio.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.pearce.nz David Pearce

    Just to be clear to start with, I am not a John Banks supporter!  

    However, from all I have read and listened too, Banks did not say outright he was a young earth creationist, or deny evolution.  So giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, he may not be a YEC.  It is also probably relevant that this was a christian radio station, so as a politician he was playing to a certain audience. (although I have read elsewhere that he is an evangelical christian).

    Charter (or ‘partnership’ schools as the government is now calling them) were Banks idea, and a condition of his (extremely minor) party’s support of the coalition government.  Most people think that this is to allow businesses to get involved in running schools in NZ, but I always thought given Bank’s involvement that there was also a strong motive in allowing christian nutjobs to teach creationism and other nonsense in the classroom.

    What concerned me even more in the debate on this yesterday was a report in the print edition of a major newspaper (which I can’t find in their online edition) that the government’s Chief Science Adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman (an eminent NZ scientist) came out with an accommodationist position saying that the government couldn’t/shouldn’t be telling people who start charter schools what to teach in the science classroom!!!!  He seemed more concerned about the rights of wing nuts and not hurting peoples feelings, when he of all people should have been making a clear, unambiguous stand for the integrity of our science curriculum.  

    John Banks is a buffoon, and although he is associate Education Minister, that was just a political deal to give the government the numbers it needs.  His only responsibility is the introduction of the charter schools.  He doesn’t have any influence over wider education policy.

    Gluckman on the other hand is responsible for advising the government on science, and how best to develop New Zealand’s scientific capabilities.  If the quotes attributed to him are correct, he should immediately resign or be sacked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Barred?  No.  Almost everyone believes some irrational things, atheists included.  Even if you only count religious nonsense, it’s still a huge and widely-varied pool of foolishness.
    If he does something bad, then remove him.

    I assume he’s appointed by an elected official, right?  So, theoretically, if he’s too terrible, he’s “barred” from the office by the fact that not enough voters approve of him, and his elected appointer has to replace him.  That only fails to work when there’s no publicity (not happening here) or too many voters share the delusion (that could be it.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/dave.pearce.nz David Pearce

      Banks is an elected official.  He is an elected member of the NZ House of Representatives (our only national legislative body) and the sole member of the ACT party (NZ’s extreme right wing party short of the white supremacists).  ‘Ministers’ in the NZ Government are equivalent to cabinet secretaries in the USA, but they are all chosen by the Prime Minister from elected members of the governing party, not appointed.  Associate Ministerships are given to more junior Members of Parliament and to senior people in coalition parties as baubles to help keep them happy.

  • Alchemist

    Ther’s no way in hell (sorry, I couldn’t resist) John Banks will attempt to push his creationist ideas within his cabinet position as associate minister, nor any other part of his political life ( except gay marriage which is why it came up in the first place).
    Should he even hint at teaching a fairytale in our schools, not only would his fellow MPs think he’d lost his mind, but his career would be effectively over. NZ voters would vote with their feet, so it’d be bye bye Banks, we hope you find a good doctor.
    This is the reason he made damn sure to point out that he wouldn’t impose his beliefs on others.
    He may be crazy enough to hold creationist beliefs, but not so crazy as to think he’d get away with shoving it done our throats. He’s a political creature before he’s a christian.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      He doesn’t have to change the existing curriculum.

      He’s opening the door to Charter schools. The Evangelicals that are expecting to run most of these schools intend to do that for him.
      from stuff.co.nz :”The Manukau Charitable Christian Trust is one of a number of faith-based groups planning to be, as the Government now calls them, a partnership school.It plans to team up with Manukau Christian School and teach the In God’s World philosophy, marked against the Cambridge curriculum.The philosophy, used at other Christian schools, encourages every subject to be taught so students discover how God made the world, and upholds and governs it.”Stop him or he wins.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        Again with the invisible paragraph breaks. Help!

  • http://godless.biz Andrew Skegg

    Sadly, we have them here in Australia as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSqzyLIBEug

    • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andrew Brookfield

      And I thought Abbott was bad enough…

      He does have the good grace to be embarrassed about it, at least.

  • J Murpheous

    Don’t bar him, just exercise your democratic right to speak out and sway public opinion do that Banksie becomes a political liability.

  • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andrew Brookfield

    Yeah, gotta say I have faith (har-har) that he will not force his religion into politics.

    As Hermant said – he’s not American.

  • peicurmudgeon

    Here in Canada, ministers are appointed by the Prime Minister. They are expected to follow the general philosophies of the party. Thus a fiscal conservative PM will appoint a like minded finance minister; an environmentally aware PM will appoint a green leanig environment minister; etc. If the PMO doesn’t approve of a minister’s words or actions, they are soon on the back benches.

    Even if he has a needed vote, he could be put in a different cabinet post where his particular beliefs matter less. For example, highways or public safety. If these are his beliefs and desires, he must have the support of the PM.


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