New Zealand Politician Accused of Punching Atheist Teacher in the Head for Not Praying at Event

Back in April, we posted a brief story about Christopher Scott Roy, an art teacher from New Zealand who said he was fired because of his atheism.

At the time, details of his story were hard to come by. Now, we have a little more information — and it’s all sorts of scandalous. (So we should all take this with a *huge* grain of salt.)

The biggest surprise involves Alfred Ngaro, a National Party member of the New Zealand Parliament:

Alfred Ngaro

Roy, who taught at Tamaki College (which caters to students we Americans normally consider high-school age), now says that he once had a confrontation with Ngaro over his beliefs:

[Roy told Employment Relations Authority] member Tania Tetitaha that in 2009 he was assaulted by Ngaro as he was leaving a First XV rugby after-match function at Kings College.

At the time Ngaro was a board of trustees member. He later entered Parliament in 2011 as an Auckland-based list MP.

Kings College officials had asked if anyone objected to a prayer or karakia being said before they ate.

Roy said he did not take part due to his atheism but rather looked around the room as everyone else bowed their head.

Ngaro, whose son was in the Tamaki First XV, came up to him and got “right in my face” after the prayer, Roy told the ERA hearing, eyeballing him just a few centimetres from his face.

Representatives from Kings College saw the behaviour and asked after his well-being, and if he wanted security guards present, Roy said. As he went to leave he was confronted outside by Ngaro, who lashed out at him, punching him on the back of his head.

Members of the First XV broke up the fight, Roy told the hearing.

As he was driving some of the boys home, they told him he was bleeding from the back of his head.

Ngaro denies any wrongdoing.

Roy also added in his claim that he was punished for not attending a pōwhiri ceremony at the school in 2010. Principal Soana Pamaka said attendance was mandatory, and the event wasn’t religious at all, though Roy said the ceremony had “numerous references to Christianity.”

It’s possible this whole claim could be thrown out because it happened so long ago and Roy didn’t take action until recently. Furthermore, Roy signed a settlement agreement with the school last year, though he now says that “he was under duress and had no access to legal advice at the time the record of settlement was signed.”

If anyone from the area can shed more light on what’s happening here, it’d be very appreciated!

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.

  • Tom

    Punched in the *back* of the head. One could possibly imply quite a lot from that.

    • # zbowman

      I need more coffee than I have, and am a little slow today – I’m not being facetious here: like what?

      • allein

        That the guy was walking away when he got punched? (I don’t know if that’s where Tom was going with his comment but that was my first thought.)

        • Poose

          Maori usually headbutt (forehead to face) as an prelude to a fight. So yes, punching someone in the back of the head indicates cowardice.

          I lived both there and in Oz for collectively almost nine years, and was able to observe up close and personal both Maori and Aboriginal Cultures.

          The Maori accepted Christianity and incorporated it into their belief structures. However, the Maori also managed to hang onto a good portion of their identity as well. There are just somethings you are expected to participate in out of respect, even if Pakhea (which I am).

          Besides, watching the All Blacks do a Haka before a match is a stirring sight, even if you don’t share their ideals, but attacking someone for non-participation is wrong in any culture.

      • Persephone

        Punching someone in the back of the head implies cowardice.

        • Ron

          I think the reference is to anal sex…

          • Persephone

            I’ve never heard it used that way. Is this usage peculiar to some region or group of people? When I see the words “punched in the back of the head,” I assume the obvious, that someone has made a fist of their hand and delivered a blow to the rear portion of someone’s head. Am I naive?

            • Nate Frein

              He’s referencing “Donkey Punching”.

              A nasty, pernicious stereotype straights like to spout off about gay men. Rather like “felching”.

              I’d rather not go into detail. The terms can be googled when you know what they are.

    • Lthomas320

      Uhm,”infer,” not “imply.”

      • Freak

        Pfui.

  • linimalD

    I’m from New Zealand, it’s a bit more complicated than ‘abused because of my atheism’ or whatever. New Zealand is a country that has tried hard to incorporate Maori traditions into most public ceremonies and include Maori translations in all legislation etc – after decades of the New Zealand government actively trying to stamp out Maori culture and language. Maori are finally starting to get some of the recognition they deserve as our Tangata Whenua (First People, or ‘host people’ I guess), and after so much active hostility to Maori culture it’s considered really disrespectful and rude to be dismissive of a powhiri (greeting ceremony) or karakia (song/prayer) – even if you don’t happen to believe in the same deities etc. So it’s not about religion really, it’s about respect for a people who have been badly mistreated and exploited by European (‘Pakeha’) colonists over the last 200-odd years. Now of course, it’s all still highly contentious – New Zealand is no longer a bicultural society (if we ever actually attained it at all), we have increasingly large Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino, and Pacific Island communities (and hundreds of others), and there are plenty of third- and fourth-generation Pakeha who resent being told they aren’t ‘indigenous’ (‘real’) New Zealanders. A lot of conservatives look at the Crown efforts to return land to Maori as giving them ‘special treatment’ and so on – I’m sure a lot of other post-colonial countries have similar problems. Personally, I try to be as respectful toward Maori culture as possible and include a little Te Reo Maori (Maori language) in my day-to-day conversation as possible, out of respect for Maori and aknowledgement of their suffering under oppressive colonial rule – the fact is that Maori are still over-represented in poverty, poor health and crime statistics, and that’s a direct result of the institutional racism that Maori lived under for so long, which still rears its head occasionally. But there are no easy answers here, while there has been much historical injustice, we’re changing as a society faster than we are able to make reparations. I dunno, it’s complicated.

    • g75401

      Thanks…..but, I have to say, I’m disappointed the Maori, in some cases, have integrated the religion of their oppressors in their rituals.

      • Intelligent Donkey

        When your people are getting the shit kicked out of them, then you’re obviously just worshiping the wrong gods. Quick, let’s worship some more powerful gods!

        Or Stockholm Syndrome.

      • mdoc

        All religion is religion of oppressors.

    • Sly Cooper

      If you’re from NZ you’d know that the maori are a scourge upon our society.

      Maori “culture” is flailing because THEY don’t care about it. As a “pakeha” maori class in school was compulsory until my Father wrote an angry letter to my school.

      All of you are fucking PC morons.

      • sk3ptik0n

        Since I appear to be the first one to respond to this digital vomit of a post. Please, do not poke this troll. We know how it ends up. We learn nothing. He certainly learns nothing, which is something he has been doing all his life.

        Just responding to his post makes me want to take a shower. Let’s let it die on the vine. It’s really the worse thing someone like that can experience.

    • sk3ptik0n

      I happen to enjoy watching Maori traditional dances and I would be the last person to want to disrespect the Maori traditions, especially as they are being rescued from near annihilation.

      But the moment someone tells me I have to participate against my will I am going to be pissed.

      That’s a different attitude from the asshole below my post (for the moment) who seems to think we are all PC morons because, after oppressing a population for centuries, we don;t continue oppressing them due to the very ills we generated./

      I am not from NZ, but I have read quite a bit about it and there are significant parallels with other oppressed minorities and the way they were treated.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      *spits* That’s no excuse.

    • Kiwi_Dave

      I have no idea what the rights and wrongs of this particular case are, but in the 25 years I taught in South Auckland multi-cultural schools, powhiris invariably included prayers and very often Christian hymns sung in Maori.

      Although initially enthusiastic about them for reasons given by linimalD, their repetition made me increasingly indifferent and eventually, because they were a coerced religious and cultural imposition which sometimes treated all non-Maori school members as outsiders, quite alienated.

    • Andy

      It’s not complicated at all.

      In the 1300’s people of Papua New Guinean and Taiwanese
      ancestry began to arrive in New Zealand. They were separate nations and none were known as Maori. More arrived over the years including a small amount of Europeans in the 1700’s.
      They began trading and missionaries were sent to convert New
      Zealanders to Christianity. The Polynesian tribes were constantly at war with each other and with introduction of muskets were in danger of total extinction.
      They asked for protection from the British King and although not interested for a decade or so finally they sent out William Hobson to negotiate a treaty which made them all equal and protected the rights of all New Zealanders. “He Iwi Tahi Tatao” or ” We are one people” was
      exclaimed at the signing of the Treaty.

      Today, just as some Christians think they are somehow different and deserve more than other people, some Maori think they are different and deserve more than other people… like a religion you might say.

      Maori are not different and their culture is no more or less important than anyone else’s. It is simply not correct to elevate someone’s culture higher or give them more or less rights based on nothing except the colour of their skin. To elevate one culture over another is apartheid and we certainly don’t want that.

      Just as the teacher does not have to attend a Jewish ceremony
      he does not have to attend a powhiri, the powhiri is a cultural ceremony which is based in Christian teachings.

      I am respectful of all cultures including Maori, I am less
      respectful cultures or religions that purport to be better or more important than anyone else’s.

    • Intelligent Donkey

      “it’s about respect for a people who have been badly mistreated”

      I don’t see how that should demand respect. They were and still are discriminated against, and that is always wrong, but that does not mean that I should be expected to participate in their rituals or superstitions. I respect their right to have their own language and culture, but I will never respect any of their beliefs in the supernatural.

      Bow your head in prayer all you want, but don’t criticize me for silently and politely ignoring your ridiculous superstitious beliefs. You want my respect? Then stop behaving like an entitled asshole. Do not force outsiders to partake of your culture.

  • Disturbing

    I ran an event for teachers which that this person attended and he was abusive to me over the fact that we opened the event with a karakia. It was announced, the crowd was in the hundreds, he could have easily walked outside while it was going on to avoid the affront. Instead he chose to make it unpleasant.
    That experience makes me question this media piece.

    • MrMoto

      So apparently you believe that there are two classes of citizens: those that are religious, and those that are not, and the non-religious wait outside.

      I keep thinking we have moved past the concept that being in the majority infers greater rights, but once again I find myself disappointed. You don’t even feel the need to justify your discrimination — you just appeal to the size of the crowd.

      • 3lemenope

        “Confers”. Not “infers”.

        /nitpick

        • MrMoto

          No, you are right, thanks for that correction., I truly used the wrong word thinking it was the right one.

  • Michael R

    The reeks of racism, as well as religion. I don’t care if this sounds racist, because it’s true: Pacific Islanders are very tribal and have quite a temper if you insult their ways. Obviously not all Islanders are like this but anyone living in New Zealand and Australia knows that if you insult an Islander in any way, look out. They are not known for their diplomacy, and I’d attribute this to their exhalted “warrior” culture more so than religion. Think Worf in Star Trek, and you get the picture.

  • Karen Mitchell

    “Ngaro denies any wrongdoing.” Well, sure, in his mind hitting an atheist isn’t wrong.


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