Contrary to Jane Norton's assertion, the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards was not shocked when the chief censor, Bill Hastings, gave The Passion of the Christ an R16 rating.
This is the same man who, when deputy president of the Film and Literature Board of Review, supported its decision to ban two Christian videos - largely talking-head opinion pieces.
The Court of Appeal ruled that nothing in the videos' contents came within the five jurisdictional gateways - sex, crime, cruelty, violence and horror as set out in section 3 of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act.
The society played a key role in helping the video distributor to uphold freedom of expression, the very principle Ms Norton falsely claims it is opposed to.
Ms Norton accused the society of hypocrisy in seeking to downgrade the classification given to The Passion of the Christ when it has a history of seeking to upgrade classifications. One of the objectives of its constitution, shown on its website, is: "To support responsible freedom of expression which does not injure the public good by degrading, dehumanising or demeaning individuals or classes of people."
The society acknowledges that seeking to limit others' freedom of expression is a double-edged sword. But the depiction of gratuitous violence, acts of necrophilia, sex acts involving human excrement and urine, lengthy and explicit depictions of anal rape, to name a few of the activities found in the films the society has sought reviews for, are not examples of freedom of expression as understood by the consensus of common-sense New Zealanders.
In fact the act specifically requires excisions of such activities if there is a tendency to promote or support them. In contrast, religious freedom and free expression of religious faith are universally hailed as hallmarks of a civilised society.
The society agrees with Mr Hastings that the film does not represent that Jewish people are inherently inferior by reason of their religion and that reasonable members of the public are unlikely to read the film as anti-Semitic.
However, it takes issue with his dogmatic views that no child - he defined a child as a person under 16 years of age - should be allowed within a mile of this film because of its gratuitous and unrelenting violence.
Mr Hastings appears to disagree with himself because the NZPA reports him as saying that classroom applications for an exemption to show the film to under-16s for educational purposes would be considered (by him) if parental consent was given. To use Ms Norton's words, you have to laugh at the exquisite irony of the situation.
A resolute Mr Hastings is reported as saying the rating would not be lowered after he has declared on radio that no child should be allowed near it. Then he says he would consider exceptions for educational purposes if parental consent was given.
But this is exactly what the society wants, except that it considers parents and guardians are better endowed to make this judgment than Mr Hastings who, incidentally, charges a $100 non-refundable fee on behalf of his office for every application lodged.
Section 44 of the act empowers the chief censor to grant an exemption for 16-year-olds to view an R16 film, in the circumstances outlined. However, the society argues that if the film was reclassified R then year 11 students (15-year-olds for example) could view the film at a theatre in the company of a supporting parent(s) or guardian(s) and teachers or religious instructors.
Ms Norton writes: "One final irony, the society has appealed to libertarian arguments stating that churches should make this call [whether people under 16 should view the film] with respect to their members."
Wrong. The society has stated only that parents and guardians should make this call, ideally after having first seen the film themselves.
She notes: "The society did not wish to afford the public the liberty to make the call with respect to Baise Moi."
Irrelevant. No defender of Baise-Moi has ever publicly called for it to be open to young people under the age of 18, let alone those under 16.
(Incidentally, the society never called for a ban on The Piano Teacher and Y Tu Mama Tambien, it sought interim restriction orders).
Ms Norton claims that the society has been stung by the system it tries to exploit with the issuing of an R16 classification to The Passion.
While acknowledging a degree of irony in its position, the society contends that there is a world of difference between the gratuitous violence of Baise Moi, Visitor Q and the like, and that of the violence in The Passion of the Christ.
* David Lane, secretary and spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Community Standards, writes on behalf of its executive committee.