The exclusive, male-only Nelson Club has refused to vote on an amendment to its laws that would ban "hate speech" in its premises while passing a rule that gags members from speaking out.
The move comes in the wake of alleged racist and homophobic slurs by a member which resulted in the resignation of its former chairperson.
The club held a special general meeting on Friday to decide the fate of a member who is alleged to have made anti Muslim and homophobic comments at an event late last year. The incident led to the resignation of the then club chairperson, when the committee refused to censure the member in question.
The member in question stepped down from the club's committee but at the meeting was permitted to keep his membership while the club voted to make an amendment that would make it forbidden to speak publicly about club business. However, the meeting would not hear an amendment to ban hate speech.
In a press release the club president Scott Dodd said that the meeting was an opportunity to "send a clear message that intolerance and bigotry have no place within the club". It said it censured the member and stated that the club was "inclusive of all ideologies, races and sexual orientations".
However, at that same meeting the member in question reiterated comments he made, including that he believed black people had lower IQs than white people. These beliefs were also recirculated by the club's lawyer in an email to other members.
The Nelson Club was founded in 1874 with its current building on Selwyn Place being opened in 1903. The club is notoriously exclusive with prospective members having to be nominated by current members. However, it does not allow females to join and also has a smoking room – both rules have been cited as legally ambiguous.
One member told the Nelson Weekly that the meeting was a "choreographed refusal to address the problem of white supremacist, and anti-Muslim views within the club".
"I also saw a refusal to ban hate speech within the club's [remises and an acceptance of a rule change to make the club a secret society."
The member who made the initial comments in question wrote to the club board saying that the comment about Muslims was about sexual grooming gangs in the UK, which was "factually correct" and that he was "anti-Islam" not "anti-Muslim". He also denied being "strongly homophobic" but did express a strong dislike for "LGBT activists pushing a pro homosexual agenda to young children in our schools".
He said his decision to move to New Zealand 10 years ago was "hugely based around the spread of Islam in the UK and Europe". The man was also a former member of the fascist far-right British National Party while living in the UK.
The member said that he hoped that the Nelson Club was an "old school" break from the "over PC norm of the modern world" where people could express themselves freely.
One member said it appeared that in refusing to acknowledge the problem, the club remained as the member in question had described it.
- Nelson Weekly