Millionaire Christian businessman Colin Craig (above right) has set himself up as the new poster boy for homophobia, publicly vowing to invest his own cash into the fight against same-sex marriage in New Zealand. He’s told TV3 that gay parents are not good role models, and stated on social media that “it is not intelligent to think that homosexual relationships are normal”.
At this point in time, we would do well to remember the sordid history of the last high-profile Christian to campaign so vociferously against equal rights for GLBT people in New Zealand – Graham Capill (above left).
Once the leader of New Zealand’s most powerful religious political party, Christian Heritage, Capill spectacularly fell from grace in 2005 when revelations emerged that he had sexually molested three young girls. He was jailed for nine years, and released early on parole in 2011.
For decades, Capill had linked homosexuality with paedophilia in public at every opportunity. Originally written for GayNZ.com at the time of Capill’s arrest, I reprint here my four-part feature on Capill: A Hypocrite’s History.
Supporters of Craig, and perhaps Craig himself, should read and learn.
Part 1: Sodom And Gomorrah
The book of Genesis in the Bible has given us many stories, but none more inflammatory than the infamous episode of Sodom of Gomorrah, guest-starring Lot, a resident of the town of Sodom, which had recently been at war. Lot welcomes two male angels into his house, who warn him of the impending destruction of the town because God is unhappy with its wickedness. In the meantime, the people of the city surround Lot’s house and demand the angels be brought forth – cue doom music and cut to ads.
When we return, the people of the city are still demanding the angels be brought forth, so that the crowd may “know” them. Although there is some ambiguity over what “know” actually means, it has been popularly translated over many years in this context as “have sex”. The thought of men having sex with men traumatised Lot so greatly that he then offers his virgin daughters to be raped by the mob instead – presumably this programme is running after midnight on subscriber television.
The mob are not appeased by the offer of young female flesh, but a distraction has been caused. The angels blind some of the mob, allowing Lot and his family to escape, but tragedy strikes – God tells them to flee from the city and not to look back. For the benefit of us viewers, always eager to see a bit of violent smiting on screen, Lot’s wife turns back to look. God turns her into a pillar of salt. That’ll teach her.
The details of disgraced former Christian Heritage Party leader Graham Capill’s proclivities toward unconsensual sexual acts with minors is now a matter of public record. The conservative Christian community were universally “shocked” by revelations of Capill’s multiple child molestation offences. But how shocked should they, or any of us, have been?
Mere months before the molestations began, Capill told Christian newspaper Challenge Weekly that “New Zealand does not need to become another Sodom and Gomorrah”. He feared that prostitution law reform would cause biblical history to repeat itself and bring the wrath of God on our country. If the story were to repeat itself exactly, our whole nation would have been fired-and-brimstoned out of existence, in order to save one man – a man willing to see his daughters gang-raped at the drop of a hat to save himself from moral humiliation.
Welcome to the world of fundamentalist hypocrites, and the breathtaking history of one of those peddlars of hypocrisy.
Birth of a moralist
It all seemed so picture-postcard perfect. It even reads like one of the great religious biographies. Born in West Africa to missionary parents in 1959, the young Capill had ambitions for the arts, just like Pope John Paul II, only Capill wanted to be an orchestral conductor rather than an actor.
However, that fell by the wayside when he made a spur of the moment decision to train as an avionics engineer with Air New Zealand instead. He also became involved with the St John’s Ambulance service, as superintendent of the largest cadet division in Christchurch. He told the Dominion in 1993 that it was during this period that he felt his calling.
“It was really out of my concern for people I met during that period of my life that I felt I should enter the ministry,” he said. Capill studied for the ministry in Australia. It took him four years, and he returned to New Zealand a bachelor of divinity. Churches in Dunedin and Christchurch were graced with his presence as a pastor soon after.
By this time, Capill was well on the way to creating a family of his own in the mould of the Genesis legends. He met his wife Judy at 21, married a year later, and they had their first child a year after that. Eleven more children were to follow. Kim Knight of the Sunday Star-Times met the family in 2000, and described them as “an advertisement for Christian Heritage Party values…Their house is like a well-ordered train station.”
“I think we’re probably fairly average New Zealanders,” said Mrs Capill. “People portray Graham as this straight, narrow boring guy but if they could see him when he’s playing with the kids, they’d see a different picture.”
A different picture began to emerge for Capill in the late eighties regarding his ministry. Capill explained his decision to become a religious politician in his 1993 Dominion interview:
“We do not believe for a moment that Christianity should stay within the four walls of a church. We’re saying that our faith is relevant to the person on the street, something that is relevant to family life,” he said. “When I see the decent society we were promised isn’t being delivered…when I see my rights being whittled away so that I don’t have real freedom any more, that stirs me up to speak out and to offer New Zealanders another way.”
Capill helped start the Christian Heritage Party in 1989. By 1991, he was its first leader, and New Zealanders would get a chance to see exactly what Capill’s “other way” for the country entailed.
A manifesto of hate
A read through the Christian Heritage Party’s election manifesto for 1993 is more than a little unsettling. Only less than ten years before, sex between men had been decriminalised for the first time. The Human Rights Act, outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, had only just been enacted.
The CHP campaigned on homosexuality, which it saw as a threat to family. One of its pledge card promises was to prevent “the promotion of abnormal sexual lifestyles (e.g. homosexuality and paedophilia)”. It also campaigned on an Orwellian definition of liberty, promising to “remove the excessive influence of the state from our society” and “to ensure that all citizens are equal before the law”, but in the very next breath said “a Christian Heritage government would, at its first possible opportunity, introduce legislation to repeal the Bill of Rights Act 1990.”
It gave with one hand, and took away with the other in calling for citizens initiated referenda “as a check against potential excesses of Government”. CHP was all in favour of referenda replacing conscience votes on contentious issues, but added: “We would consider such a referendum to be binding unless it contravenes the party’s manifesto.”
On the subject of foreign military intervention, CHP felt that “no government has the authority to withold God-given rights to its subjects and we would publicly and equally condemn all left and right wing totalitarian Government actions of this nature”, yet they supported the reintroduction of compulsory military training, criminalisation of all forms of pornography (which CHP would set the definition for), tougher censorship laws around obscenity and blasphemy, and outlawing commercial trading on Sundays.
Homosexuality was also granted a special place in Capill’s election manifesto. CHP promised not only to repeal homosexual law reform, but instigate an ongoing campaign of persecution against gays and lesbians:
A Christian Heritage government will repeal the Homosexual Law Reform Act and replace it with legislation that would make illegal the promotion of homosexual and lesbian activities and confirm the inalienable right of citizens to exercise discriminatory choices in their dealings with homosexuals and lesbians. This legislation will provide for the fostering of an ongoing campaign which will make homosexual and lesbian activity unacceptable and provide assistance for those willing to discontinue this practice.”
But while CHP was happy to interfere in the private lives of consenting adults and have them prosecuted, it was advocating for less interference in the lives of families where molestation of children had been alleged:
“5.5 Child Molestation
It is our view that the powers currently available to social workers in the investigation of child molestation should be severely limited, and instead, they should report to the police any case of concern. Further action if any should be left to the police; including the gathering of evidence and the decision as to whether to prosecute. Powers to interfere with family life prior to a case going before a court should be subject to warrant procedures. A special police unit should be charged with the task of dealing with such cases promptly and justly.”
Sex education was to be left to parents who “have the primary responsibility to educate their children about sex.” AIDS would be made a “notifiable disease to protect both the AIDS carrier and the rest of society.” Social welfare, unemployment, ACC? Gone.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was to be abolished also “as it has consistently denigrated the status of the homemaker and failed to promote the interests of women and their role in the family.” No-fault divorce laws were also to be repealed, “given our commitment to the upholding of marriage”.
As for law and order, CHP wanted the death penalty introduced for murder. However, for those found guilty of “certain non-violent offences” which were unspecified, CHP was keen to grant freedom to criminals under a system which “restricted daytime movement for the purposes of going to and from work, and the enforcement of non-consorting laws. Convicted persons would have to report to ‘Night prisons’ at 6:00 p.m. each evening, with weekend visits home allowed, but under strict curfew.”
A Christian Heritage government would offer “a return to integrity in leadership; and commitment to the family, to freedom and responsibility, and to sound, time-honoured moral values.”
The stage was set for conductor Capill to lead his orchestra in a fundamentalist symphony of his own composition, from one moralising movement to the next.
An obsession with paedophilia
Connecting homosexuality and paedophilia in the public’s mind seemed to be a special priority for Capill throughout his tenure as CHP leader. In 1992, his party issued a petition to stir up opposition to the Human Rights Act. Capill said the proposed protections for gays and lesbians would promote paedophilia as an acceptable form of sexual behaviour.
Capill told gay protesters outside a CHP meeting in 1993 that what they did was unnatural and could be cured through counselling. “It (homosexuality) is like prostitution, murder and rape,” he said. In October, he told a CHP rally in Palmerston North that the Human Rights Act was the worst piece of legislation of its kind in the world, even though it also would outlaw discrimination on the basis of religion.
“I think its quite wrong to put homosexuality in the same category as race, colour of skin, things like that,” he told the Dominion. “Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle that we can change from.”
Capill claimed to have ex-gays within the CHP. “If it was a genetic problem they would not have changed…I’ve gone out of my way to shake their hands, to talk, to tell them there’s hope and we want to offer them that hope. My door is always open to homosexuals. That’s the sort of image I would like to portray. Not someone who’s in a closet and doesn’t understand people.”
The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards – also keen to link homosexuality and paedophilia – agreed. They named Capill as one of their “people of high integrity” in their October 1993 newsletter, recommending him as a candidate to vote for. But next to no-one did.
Tomorrow, in Part 2: Hunting Down Homos
From 1993-96, convicted child molester and former Christian Heritage leader Graham Capill continued to build a power base as a religious politician, courting the media and labelling homosexuality a threat to children.