The Herald ran an on-line poll yesterday that asked how Kiwis are celebrating Easter. The vast majority were doing the usual weekend pastimes like sleeping in, hanging out with family, watching a movie etc. Only 17% said they would be remembering the suffering of Christ, which is the religious meaning behind the Holy Day that is Good Friday. Almost as many, 14%, said they’d be working.
In a secular, multi-cultural society this result is not surprising. What perhaps is surprising is that the religious influence still dominates at Easter when it comes to people’s ability to engage in the usual weekend activities such as shopping, eating out, or enjoying a drink.
This has big implications for economies that rely heavily on tourism like Waiheke – and Wanaka. I mention Wanaka because, like Waiheke, they are expecting a large influx of visitors for a festival and because the local National MP, Jacqui Dean, is asking for a law change to allow cafes and bars to trade more freely over Easter weekend.
Under the new Sale of Liquor Act, alcohol can only be served to patrons one hour either side of eating a full meal on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
A similar message is coming from ACT leader Jamie Whyte
This weekend thousands of businesses will be closed, liquor sales will be banned, and countless Kiwis will be denied the right to work.
This is something very much on the mind of local vineyard owners. Rob Meredith, owner of Peacock Sky Vineyard, has said on Facebook (the other Waiheke community page) “Let's hope this (Jacqui Dean) initiative gains some traction. These confusing and archaic laws are well past their sell-by date.”
I agree. Easter trading and liquor licensing laws are out of step with the realities of modern life. Relaxing them does nothing to interfere with the devotions of Christians at this supremely important time in their annual calendar.
The Church will no doubt see it as a further erosion of their influence in everyday life, but that is a reality anyway, rightly so in a multi-cultural society. All religions are guaranteed freedom of worship but religions, in turn, should not be allowed to restrict the freedoms of those who do not share their beliefs.
It is a paradox: only by permitting the freedom not to believe can religions be true to their own beliefs. It’s the only way we can all peacefully co-exist. A change in the law is needed to reflect this reality.