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Lobby group has busy time

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    Lobby group has busy time - 15-Sep-2005
    A broadly Christian lobby group has been one of the most active forces of the 2005 election campaign, pulling upwards of 800 people to public meetings while staying out of the limelight.
    The Maxim Institute, which describes itself as a conservative think-tank, lobbies politicians and the media on issues such as education and the family.

    It has held 29 political forums around the country in the lead-up to polling day, its Greenlane meeting attracting 850 people while most Maxim meetings attract at least 200.

    Maxim's legal counsel, Nicki Taylor, said Maxim became involved in organising election debates because it was asked to provide information on the MMP election system by people who wanted to be "informed".

    But at Maxim meetings, United Future and National Party candidates generally get the biggest cheers while Labour, Green or Jim Anderton's Progressive Party candidates get the biggest boos. Mention of the word family is cheered.

    Talk of poverty or environmental degradation is greeted with polite applause.

    Meetings kick off with the audience standing for the national anthem - English and Maori versions - and although God is hardly mentioned, Ms Taylor, who describes herself as a Christian when asked, ends the meeting by saying, "Our prayer is that you will have grace and wisdom as you go through this life".

    Voters in their early 20s would rarely be seen at political meetings of this sort, but at Maxim's North Shore event, a group of around 10 arrive, cheering and clapping anti-drugs messages and anti-civil union comments.

    One of the group, 22-year-old Simon O'Hanlon, said he came because he was concerned about moral values. "I personally would vote on moral issues," he said, adding he would probably vote National.

    Ms Taylor said Maxim had no official links with political parties or formal links with a single church. It had no official membership list but around 2000 supporters.

    It was financed by five main donors and also received donations from around 1500 supporters. While their names mean little, one, Christchurch's Middleton Grange School, has as one of its objectives: "To teach students that they are fallen creatures who require the salvation provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

    Maxim has 18 paid employees but Ms Taylor said she did not know how many were practising Christians.

    "Everyone believes in something," she says.

    While Maxim and its supporters have obviously been motivated by new laws legalising prostitution and allowing civil unions, its next fight is aimed at stopping any move to introduce "hate speech" laws.

    The law's supporters in New Zealand want legislation that would bar fundamentalist churches from openly attacking minorities, in particular gays.

    Maxim made a submission opposing any introduction of hate speech laws to the government administration select committee last year, saying New Zealand law was more than adequate to prohibit or restrict speech that had the potential to cause harm.
    Ref: - NZ Herald - Maxim Institute

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