The Maoriland Worker and Blasphemy in New Zealand

The 12 October 1921 issue of the New Zealand labour newspaper the Maoriland Worker included two poems by the noted British war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Three lines of ‘Stand-to: Good Friday Morning’ caught the authorities’ attention. Consequently, on the advice of the Attorney General, a charge of blasphemous libel was laid against the paper’s publisher John Glover. Glover was subsequently tried in the Supreme Court in 1922 in what remains New Zealand’s only trial for ‘blasphemy’. This article explores the context, course and implications of the trial. It contends that the proceedings should be viewed in the light of post-war efforts to protect social order and suppress dissent. In essence, the charge was a pragmatic alternative to that of sedition. The incident provides a window on the intersection between religion, politics, and the labour movement, and highlights aspects of religion’s role in New Zealand society during these years.

In 1922, John Glover, publisher of a leading New Zealand labour journal, the Maoriland Worker, was tried for blasphemous libel. His prosecution and trial are, for a number of reasons, the story of a New Zealand curiosity. First, it was and remains New Zealand’s only trial for blasphemy. This makes the story interesting, despite the fact that it is not particularly well known.[1] While the case is occasionally cited in legal circles and among rationalists, it has not been remembered by labour historians or historians of religion. Some recollections of it that do exist, like those of Margaret Thorn, are quite erroneous at points.[2] Secondly, it seems curious that a law against blasphemy should ever have existed in New Zealand — much less been acted upon. New Zealand was a de facto Christian state, but early legislators also went to considerable lengths to ensure a degree of ‘secularity’, and freedom of religious association and expression.[3] Crucially, there was no Established religion in New Zealand. The connection of blasphemy with Established religion had been a notable feature of developments in Britain. Ever since Lord Chief Justice Hale’s famous judgement in 1676, British common law prosecutions had proceeded on an assumption that the Christianity of the Church of England was part of the law.[4] Thirdly, of all the instances where blasphemies might have been prosecuted, the unannotated reprinting of a widely available poem in a labour paper seems quite unlikely, and requires some explanation.

Secularist interpretations of the history of blasphemy have tended to cast it in terms of the battle for freedom of, or from, religion — a contest between religious tolerance and intolerance. Recent scholarship has indicated that the meaning of blasphemy is more complex and multivalent.[5] David Lawton has argued that blasphemy is a contested site where issues of identity are played out. He claims that instances of blasphemy indicate ruptures within the community, and that prosecutions are essentially battlegrounds for issues of difference and conformity.[6] These observations hold true in New Zealand. Glover’s trial was made possible by a particular set of social, political, religious and even legal conditions that existed in the years after World War I. The incident provides an intriguing window on the intersection between religion, politics and the labour movement, and illustrates the deep tensions that existed in New Zealand in the early inter-war years.

Background: Blasphemy and Law in New Zealand

At one level, the trial was only made possible by the introduction of the Criminal Code Act of 1893. Prior to this, New Zealand experience of blasphemy was tenuous, to say the least. The experience of early freethinkers like Charles Southwell gave blasphemy a profile within that constituency.[7] Profanity and obscenity were punishable in law,[8] though proceedings on these grounds were rare as offences were usually dealt with by summary conviction.[9] The Criminal Code Act was New Zealand’s first consolidated Crimes Act, and was largely modelled on James Fitzjames Stephen’s failed English Criminal Code (Indictable Offences) Bill of 1878.[10] Blasphemous libel was defined in s 133 of that Act.[11] The Crimes Act of 1908 re-enacted and consolidated much of the earlier Criminal Code with little change.[12] Section 150, which dealt with blasphemous libel, reflected this pattern as its definition of the crime made only minor amendments to the expression of the third clause:

  1. Every one is liable to one year’s imprisonment who publishes any blasphemous libel.
  2. Whether any particular published matter is or is not a blasphemous libel is a question of fact.
  3. It is not an offence under this section to express in good faith and in decent language, or to attempt to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever upon any religious subject.
  4. No one shall be indicted under this section except with the leave in writing of the Attorney-General first had and obtained.[13]

The New Zealand legislation took into account recent changes in British thinking about blasphemy. The medieval emphasis on blasphemy as heresy had long been abandoned. Later interpretations viewed the crime as an attack on church and state, then as a moral attack on society, and finally as an insult to individual tastes.[14] From the seventeenth century, the Hale judgement formed the basis for blasphemy prosecutions. The Libel Act of 1792 introduced a new phase, characterised by a sharp increase in the number of prosecutions.[15] The most pertinent development, and a great watershed in interpretation, followed trials connected with the populist freethinker George W. Foote. From the 1870s, Foote had been a prolific pamphleteer, lecturer, debater, and, according to some, the most formidable secularist of his generation.[16] In 1883, he was tried for blasphemy on account of material published in his incendiary ‘Bible-smashing’ periodical the Freethinker. In fact, there were three separate trials. He was found guilty at the last of these and sent to Holloway Gaol for 12 months with hard labour.

While this outcome may appear harsh, Judge John Duke Coleridge’s judgement has generally been taken to mark the beginning of a more liberal and tolerant approach to blasphemy. Coleridge’s judgement argued that in view of England’s cultural diversity, the Church of England and Christianity in general could no longer be considered part of the law of the land. Crucially, the Coleridge judgement distinguished between the ‘matter’ and ‘manner’ of the crime. This ensured immunity for moderate or respectful critics of Christianity, but not for purveyors of ridicule.[17] It essentially introduced a decency test. The content of blasphemy became less important than the context in which it was expressed and its impact. Coleridge determined that aspersion of the truth of Christianity was not per se sufficient to sustain a criminal prosecution for blasphemy.[18] Interpreters like Joss Marsh suggest that the emphasis on ‘decency’ effectively turned blasphemy from a religious sin to a class crime.[19] According to this analysis, blasphemy now criminalised vulgarity and set up a standard for public discourse that the less educated could not observe. The law sacralised élite notions of taste, and was used to consolidate the power of a respectable middle class. Nevertheless, the frequency of blasphemy prosecutions reduced dramatically in the wake of the ruling.

The law in New Zealand reflected the changed position after Coleridge.[20] Christianity was not formally protected as part of the law of the land, and blasphemy was framed in terms of decency for the protection of public order rather than protecting God or defining heresy. The New Zealand law was more circumscribed than that in Britain, since verbal offences were excluded on grounds that their impact was less enduring and therefore less harmful. This moderation may also reflect the fact that state support for the principle of toleration was relatively developed in New Zealand. Arguably, and somewhat ironically, however, a New Zealand blasphemy trial would not have been possible without the apparently liberal Coleridge ruling. Consideration given to the Church of England in earlier traditions would have rendered a similar blasphemy law much less justifiable and palatable. Without the new emphasis on decency and order following the Coleridge ruling, it is doubtful whether blasphemous libel would have entered the Criminal Code at all.

The Prosecution

John Glover’s prosecution came after a Constable Edward Tongue purchased a copy of the 12 October issue of the Maoriland Worker on 12 November 1921.[21] Soon after, on 7 December, Glover appeared before W.G. Riddell in the Wellington Magistrate’s Court to answer a charge of blasphemous libel. John Glover was an influential figure within the labour movement. He had helped organise the Unity Conference of 1916, and subsequently served as first secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1916 to 1919. He had managed the Maoriland Worker since 1912. The charge was laid under s 150 of the Crimes Act 1908 on account of publication of Siegfried Sassoon’s war poem, ‘Stand To: Good Friday Morning’, which figured on the front page of the 12 October edition. The poem read:

I’d been on duty from two till four.
I went and stared at the dug-out door.
Down in the frost I heard them snore.
‘Stand to!’ Somebody grunted and swore.
Dawn was misty; the skies were still;
Larks were singing, discordant, shrill;
They seemed happy; but I felt ill.
Deep in water I splashed my way
Up the trench to our bogged front line.
Rain had fallen the whole damned night.
O Jesus, send me a wound to-day,
And I’ll believe in Your bread and wine,
And get my bloody old sins washed white!

The Crown Prosecutor, P.S.K. Macassey, had handled most local cases of sedition in recent years.[22] He argued that the final three lines of the poem accorded with the definition of blasphemous libel in Stephen’s Digest as ‘contemptuous or reviling matter relating to God or Jesus Christ’. Glover’s defence lawyer was P.J. O’Regan, a prominent Catholic and supporter of Irish self-determination. O’Regan had strong links to the West Coast and had provided legal support for workers, labour leaders and labour organisations over many years. He countered that the case was trivial, and the offending lines were simply a customary expression of poetic licence. Riddell rejected O’Regan’s arguments, formally charged Glover with the offence and committed him to the Supreme Court for trial on bail of £100.

The trial was scheduled to take place in early February the following year. On 8 February, the Maoriland Worker noted that these proceedings had been postponed on account of O’Regan’s absence from Wellington.[23] The following week, it reported that a grand jury had returned a true bill on the indictment — indicating its view that the evidence warranted a trial.[24] Before deliberating, the jury took detailed instructions from the presiding judge, Mr Justice Hosking, who was conscious that this was the first such case to be considered since the introduction of the Criminal Code. He noted that the purpose of the law was not to enforce religious doctrine, but to ‘maintain peace and order in the community’, since ‘Violation of what is “tapu” may lead to fanatical retaliation and violence’.[25] The jury was urged to ignore common law definitions of blasphemy in favour of ‘ordinary popular signification’. Since the subject matter concerned Jesus and the doctrine of Atonement and Holy Communion, it was undoubtedly religious. The only question was whether or not the words transgressed decency. To determine this, Hosking directed the jury to consider closely the context and setting of the work as a ‘realistic’ war poem, and to read the intention of the relevant lines within the poem as a whole. In response to a question from the grand jury, Hosking clarified that whether the words had created strife or not was immaterial. Freedom to express religious sentiments was absolute, except that it must not ‘deal with a sacred and religious subject in language which reviles or throws contumely on those subjects’.[26]

The trial proper took place on 22 February 1922. The formidable Sir John Findlay K.C. and Mr W. Perry conducted the defence case at trial after O’Regan had withdrawn in a fit of pique. O’Regan took umbrage when the Alliance of Labour approached Glover about engaging a second counsel, fulminating that he would ‘play second to no man’. However, he was satisfied that Findlay and Perry would provide a complete legal defence.[27] Findlay had long-standing associations with the Liberal party.[28] He had served as Attorney General after his appointment to the Legislative Council by Joseph Ward in 1906, but also held a number of other ministerial roles. In 1917 he won the Hawkes Bay by-election for the Liberals, but retired from that position in 1919. Perry, later Sir William Perry MLC, was prominent in Wellington legal circles at this time,[29] and known to have sustained a wound while serving with the 1st Wellington Regiment during World War I.

The Crown put its case succinctly. Constable Tongue presented evidence that he had purchased the issue in question. Citing Webster’s dictionary definition of blasphemy, Macassey claimed that the poem ‘reviled Christ and the Last Sacrament’. Therefore, the only issue for the jury was whether, realistic or not, the thoughts were expressed in good faith and decent language.[30]

The defence case was more involved, and marked by interchanges between Findlay and Hosking.[31] Counsel engaged in convoluted discussions about the origin and derivation of the word ‘bloody’ — apparently to introduce confusion about the word, as well as the meaning of blasphemy, and to make the whole debate appear antiquarian. Perry’s experience of the war was given prominence, especially in determining the poem’s realism in depicting life (and language) in the trenches.[32] In closing, Findlay also used the recent experience of war to frame the case as one of toleration, individual liberty and national identity:

You know, gentlemen, what our nation has gone through in blood and suffering to establish the individual and religious liberty which you and I enjoy to-day. It is the boast of our nation that we have more liberty than probably any nation in the world. That privilege, that crown, can only be retained and can only be properly used, first if we respect and value our own liberty, and secondly if we treat our fellow men in a spirit of toleration. The verdict you bring to-day will test the standard as to what is the individual liberty of men and women in New Zealand to-day.[33]

All parties agreed that the critical issue was, in Mr Justice Hosking’s terms, ‘whether the language that was used was that which could be described as decent, or whether it crosses over into the region of what is insulting and contemptuous’.[34] The legal question of ‘good faith’ was not pertinent to the case, since Glover had published in ignorance and the writer did not seem to have intended sacrilege.[35] With respect to the issue of decency, Hosking challenged many of Findlay’s arguments. He rejected assertions that the prosecution ought to have been brought under the Indecent Publication Act. The sense of decency that Lord Coleridge had employed, of ‘propriety and what is becoming’, was upheld over that applied in cases of indecency.[36] Hosking seemed particularly vexed by the suggestion that the prosecution threatened freedom of expression of thought. He stressed that ‘growing toleration’ had not yet come to mean that ‘abominable or filthy language’ should be published. Nor was ‘artistic realism’ a defence: ‘You cannot justify it simply upon the ground that you want to give a true and correct picture of what you want to describe by saying that the language was in fact actually used … if that were so then the publication of everything that was uttered in the trenches or everything heard in a madhouse might be justified’.[37]

In summing up, Hosking pointed out that, if found guilty, the defendant would be liable to a fine rather than imprisonment.[38] That Glover had not written the lines in question, and was only technically responsible for what appeared in paper, could be mitigating factors but did not bear on the legal question of guilt.[39] The jury deliberation took only three-quarters of an hour, including time to return once on a point of clarification. After retiring to consider its verdict at 4.45pm, the jury returned at 5.25pm to allow the foreman, Mr G.M. Julius, to ask: ‘If the jury find the prisoner “not guilty,” can they add a rider to the effect that such publications should be discouraged?’ Having received an answer in the affirmative, it retired and returned at 5.35pm with the verdict: ‘We find the prisoner not guilty, but wish to add the following rider: That similar publications of such literature be discouraged’.[40]

Why Did the Prosecution Occur?

As Lawton suggests, blasphemy prosecutions may be seen as cultural and legal flash points, reflecting deeper tensions and struggles within society. The particular conditions of the post-war years help to explain why the prosecution occurred in New Zealand at this time. The Glover trial must be viewed in the context of a specific set of circumstances.

Renewed Interest in Blasphemy

One important factor in the case was undoubtedly the resurgence of interest in blasphemy within the wider English-speaking world. In defending Glover, Findlay had contended that up until 1911 the law had been regarded as virtually ‘a dead letter’ in England and America. The Coleridge judgement against G.W. Foote had been followed by a lengthy period without prosecutions, but it had not eliminated the ‘crime’.[41] In 1911, a number of charges were laid, most notably against the British socialist and freethinker J.W. Gott.[42] Over the following decade, Gott flagrantly courted publicity and prosecution in an effort to make blasphemy law appear ridiculous. Martyrdom became a fashion in the attempt to secure repeal. The final case against Gott only occurred in 1922; it was the last in Britain for over 50 years.

Crucially, blasphemy had also become prominent in Australia.[43] The most significant developments related to R.S. Ross who, as it happens, had edited the Maoriland Worker in New Zealand between 1911 and 1913. In April 1913, Ross returned to his native Australia to work in the socialist press in Melbourne. During the war, he founded Ross’s Magazine of Protest, Personality and Progress, which has been described as ‘socialist, antimilitarist, atheist and anti-clerical’.[44] The magazine attracted official attention almost immediately on account of its blasphemous and seditious content, and only narrowly avoided prosecution. In 1919, Ross was prosecuted for blasphemy on account of an article in the renamed Ross’s Monthly.[45] Before facing trial for this, he was charged with breaching the Post and Telegraph Act by attempting to post a blasphemous article. He was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, though this was reduced to a £50 fine on appeal. Ross was well known in New Zealand, and evidently his writing was followed. By 1921, the Maoriland Worker was noting Ross’s Monthly among its partial lists of banned books.[46]

David Nash has argued that a connection of socialism, freethought and blasphemy ran through all British prosecutions during the Edwardian era. An element of moral decency was also involved, as socialism and freethought were often associated with promotion of birth control and generally libertine attitudes. In terms of the legal framework of prosecutions, Nash also notes a clear movement away from tolerance in favour of maintaining public order in the early twentieth century.[47] In this respect, the Maoriland Worker case was consistent with contemporary trends in Britain. The characteristics Nash identifies were reflected in the Glover case, and it seems unlikely that this resonance was purely coincidental.

F.H.D. Bell and the Origins of the Prosecution

Some question marks remain over who initiated proceedings against Glover. As far as P.J. O’Regan and the Maoriland Worker were concerned, the case had been initiated by the conservative Reform government’s Attorney General, Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell. At the preliminary hearing in the Magistrate’s Court, O’Regan claimed that Bell had not merely authorised proceedings, as the law required, but also instigated them: ‘Whether blasphemous or not, this prosecution has been instigated by the Attorney-General … THIS IS NOTHING LESS THAN ORGANISED POLITICAL PROSECUTION’.[48] After Glover’s acquittal, the Maoriland Worker also laid the blame firmly on Bell, lampooning ‘the benighted knight’ and his ‘queer intelligence’. The Worker claimed that, ‘rummaging among the Crimes Act he unearthed Clause 150 in which there was power to imprison for a year Mr. J. Glover…. Hence his action’.[49] The paper also complained that the poem was only considered blasphemous when found in the pages of the Maoriland Worker, since it was readily available in Sassoon’s War Poems and the ‘Tory’ Christchurch Sun had also reprinted it during the trial.

Sir Francis Bell was one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded lawyers, and a leading figure in the Reform government.[50] The eldest son of former New Zealand Company agent Francis Dillon Bell, he studied at St John’s College, Cambridge before returning to New Zealand in 1875 to practise law. He quickly established a successful legal career, and filled a range of political offices and senior legal appointments before returning to the Legislative Council in 1912 after the conservative William F. Massey became Prime Minister.[51] Soon a trusted ally, he became known as Massey’s ‘right-hand man’. This role strengthened after World War I, as Massey turned increasingly to Bell for advice and leadership. Commentators have sometimes noted Bell’s expressions of sympathy with the left.[52] Whatever the significance of these, he was most definitely also a conservative, a British loyalist, and implacably opposed to groups that he believed advocated the violent overthrow of the state.[53] In the post-war years, the Left had little sympathy for him. Labour’s view that he was responsible for the blasphemy action reflected conflicting ideologies and more than a hint of personal animosity — O’Regan once referred to him as ‘that saponaceous humbug’.[54] But hostility also reflected the fact that Bell was the prime instigator of the government’s measures to counteract seditious activity.

Blasphemy as an Alternative to Sedition

In many ways, the blasphemy trial was a product of government concerns about sedition, which was a significant feature of Reform’s years in office. Arguably the leading labour journal at the time, the Maoriland Worker was connected with all the causes that the government was anxious about. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, concern about sedition was shaped by the special conditions created by World War I. The legal framework for prosecution of sedition had existed earlier,[55] but developed in the context of wartime dissent. A strong tradition of anti-militarism existed within the labour movement, and this carried over into opposition to the war. Labour leaders had opposed the Defence Act 1909 which introduced compulsory military training. This opposition escalated into outright dissent during the war, especially from 1916 when it became clear that conscription would be introduced.[56] On 20 September 1915, the government gazetted a war regulation making it illegal to ‘incite, encourage, advise, or advocate violence, lawlessness, or disorder, or express any seditious intention’.[57] As opposition to conscription gathered pace, numerous labour opponents of the war were tried and sentenced to sedition under the war regulations.[58] This established a close correlation between labour, sedition and anti-militarism that persisted after the war.

Labour opposition to the war remained a sensitive point. Against significant protests, war regulations continued for some time, and convictions for offences under these continued.[59] In particular, the War Regulations Continuance Act 1920 provided the legal apparatus for continued action against dissenting voices.[60] Labour leaders continued to enunciate anti-war sentiments, and the Maoriland Worker published them.[61] At Glover’s trial, James Thorn, the editor who included Sassoon’s poem, claimed that he did so because it ‘revealed the grim and terrible in war, and on that account conveyed ideas which accorded with the attitude The Worker has always taken towards armed strife between nations’.[62] In 1919, Harry Holland’s Armageddon or Calvary claimed martyr status for conscientious objectors, using provocative language for a time when soldier’s service was interpreted in sacrificial terms.[63]

Continued anti-militarism was irksome to the government, and kept the question of labour ‘loyalty’ alive. However, Irish nationalism and ‘Bolshevism’ were the government’s main concerns after World War I, and the labour movement was closely associated with both. Downie Stewart claimed that censorship began as a counter to the seditious threat posed by war-time Irish nationalism, but extended when post-revolutionary literature poured into the country during 1920 and 1921.[64] The labour movement was deeply embroiled in these debates. In the post-war years, it sustained a concerted ‘Irish campaign’ with the vociferous support of the Maoriland Worker.[65] By the end of 1921, the Irish situation appeared precarious. The New Zealand government was anxious about local consequences if negotiations broke down and hostilities re-ignited.[66]

Police surveillance focused on left-wing groups. While communism was considered the main threat, the authorities seldom distinguished between different views within the labour movement. Graeme Dunstall suggests that by September 1921 the differences between the communists and the Labour Party had become apparent to the Wellington detective monitoring them. Yet, the more moderate Labour Party remained under routine surveillance.[67] Close scrutiny of communist literature resulted in numerous prosecutions for sedition — the best known of which involved Hedwig Weitzel in August 1921.[68] In response to all of this, H.E. Holland and the Maoriland Worker ran a spirited campaign against the censorship laws, directed at Bell. This continued throughout 1921, and became particularly intense during the later part of the year.[69] Under pressure from Holland, Bell reiterated that freedom of speech was assured, but only if violence was neither advocated nor supported.[70] As Dunstall has noted, this constituted a relatively broad definition of sedition.[71]

The positioning of the Maoriland Worker within the labour movement exacerbated the perception that it was a threat. After the war there was a substantial rise in union membership.[72] This increased from 71,447 to 96,350 between 1918 and 1920, and corresponded with a period of intensified industrial action.[73] Between 1920 and 1925, the New Zealand Official Year Book ceased publishing union membership figures in favour of data relating to industrial disputes. Militant rhetoric flourished, especially after the formation in 1919 of the Alliance of Labour which preferred industrial action over an incremental political approach. However, a substantial rift within the labour movement between those advocating industrial and political action was also part of the dynamic. In 1919, the arrival of a new editor, W. Kraig, shifted the Maoriland Worker into a closer association with the industrialist position. Under Kraig’s editorship the paper formally ended its function as the official organ of the Labour Party, and aligned itself with the industrialism of Jim Roberts and the Alliance.[74] This fracture only began to heal after James Thorn became editor in 1921, just prior to the publication of Sassoon’s poem.[75]

Between 1919 and 1921, action was taken against the Maoriland Worker on a number of occasions. In 1919, Glover and Kraig were investigated on account of claims that an article in the 19 March issue of the paper had incited a ‘seditious strike’ among frozen meat industry workers.[76] In the middle of 1921, another attempt was made to prosecute Glover and the Kraig’s replacement as editor, P.H. Hickey, for sedition over publication of the pamphlet ‘The Irish Tragedy: Scotland’s Disgrace’. This was alleged to encourage ‘violence and lawlessness’ in breach of War Regulation four. The charges failed when the Magistrate, Mr F.K. Hunt, ruled that the document had a seditious intent in Great Britain, but not in New Zealand.[77] In the context of the bitter disputes about censorship and sedition throughout 1921, the failure of this latter charge may well have been a factor in the decision to pursue an alternative charge of blasphemy.

The Religious Context

Blasphemous libel does concern religion, and the religious context of the charge was significant. The relationship between labour and organised religion was often strained. Theologically and politically, the religious community in New Zealand was predominantly conservative. There was considerable religious support for labour in some circles. Individuals like O’Regan were carefully nurturing an informal relationship between labour and the Catholic community, and there was considerable sympathy within sections of the churches of non-conformist heritage. Social issues and internationalism were also becoming important concerns in the mainline Protestant churches after World War I. However, the churches were also concerned about what seemed to be irreligious tendencies within the movement. A wide variety of attitudes to religion existed and were exhibited within the pages of the Maoriland Worker. But a strongly secular and anti-religious tone was evident at times. Socialism was occasionally advocated as a form of religion,[78] and criticism of the churches was common. Organised religion was often presented as impotent and religious leaders were disparaged for their hypocrisy. These were accused of betraying Christ’s teaching, which was supposedly expressed best in the ideals of the labour movement.[79] Such tropes were common, and had a long tradition. Religious language and imagery was widely used to lend moral authority to the labour cause, and heap shame upon ‘the establishment’.

In November 1921, this rhetorical use of religion was extended into the debate about censorship and sedition — and may well have triggered the events that followed. In the issue of 2 November 1921, E.J.B. Allen positively bated Bell in an article entitled ‘Will Sir Francis Bell Prosecute’.[80] After a diatribe against political malice and government policy, Allen quoted at length from ‘a chapter in a book published by the Oxford University press that I have by me as I write … for the benefit of Sir Francis Bell, the Cabinet and especially the Solicitor-General’. The book was ‘allegedly an account of a people who were ruled over by a foreign king like the Irish, the Hindus and the English are to-day’. The chapter was Judges 3 from the Old Testament, which told of Ehud helping the Israelites to overthrow Eglon, the King of Moab. Allen concluded: ‘Note that, Sir Francis? “And the Lord raised up a deliverer,” who killed a king. Is this sedition or an incitement to violence?’ He then suggested productive lines of work for ‘unemployed constables’ and detectives in linking such texts with unsolved crimes. In December, the paper claimed that Bell had told a deputation that he would like to censor the Old Testament, though, it noted, this was not reported in the papers that supported the Protestant Political Association.[81]

This last reference is a reminder that the religious community was mobilised politically on a range of issues at this time.[82] In particular, it was the period in which the Rev. Howard Elliott and the Protestant Political Association (PPA) were active. The PPA had arisen in New Zealand during World War I, and grew rapidly on the back of loyalist and anti-Catholic sentiment — especially toward the end of the war.[83] By 1919, national organiser and lecturer the Rev. Howard Elliott claimed that the organisation had 200,000 members. While this is impossible to prove, there were more than 200 branches and Elliott did consistently attract very large audiences.[84]

No evidence has yet been uncovered that proves a link with the prosecution. However, labour suspected it, and may well have been right. Elliott had strong Australian connections, and had developed a reputation as a sectarian controversialist before he moved from Queensland to New Zealand in 1909.[85] In Australia, members of the Orange Lodge and Protestant Alliance had tried to instigate proceedings for blasphemy against socialist newspapers in preceding years.[86] A similar strategy in New Zealand would have been quite consistent. There was certainly no doubt about the PPA’s violent opposition to the left. By the end of the war, the organisation’s focus was firmly fixed on alleged threats posed by Catholics and Bolsheviks. This emphasis continued unabated through the early 1920s. As early as March 1922, Elliott was gearing up for an election at the end of the year, warning large gatherings about a unity of interest between Labour, Catholicism and Bolshevism.[87]

There has been some debate about the relationship between Massey, Reform and the PPA, and the significance of Massey’s heritage in the Orange Lodge.[88] Massey and Elliott were anxious to avoid being seen in direct contact, but it seems certain that Elliott had ready access to the Prime Minister.[89] From Reform’s perspective, the relationship between them and the PPA needed careful management. By 1921, tensions were beginning to develop. Reform had already moved against the ‘Catholic threat’ through its censorship laws, the imposition of loyalty oaths and the Marriage Act of 1920. While this played to conservative Protestant fears, it also undermined the PPA’s platform.[90] A growing breach between Elliott and Massey reflected the delicate political manoeuvring each party faced. By 1923, the Association was openly criticising Massey as it became increasingly concerned about the decreasing yield on its support.[91] In this context, a blasphemy trial against the Maoriland Worker could have conceivably provided reassurance. At the very least, it was the kind of action the government might suppose the PPA would approve. Whatever the influence of the PPA, the Reform Party clearly had a sizeable constituency among religious people. Massey’s own Presbyterian connections were important for supporters within that denomination. His emphases on loyalty to empire, law and order, and generally conservative outlook appealed to many religious people. In this context, blasphemy charges against a ‘radical’ journal carried few political risks.


In some ways, the prosecution was a storm in a teacup. The Maoriland Worker attempted to gain some traction from the event by using Sassoon’s reflections on the ‘bigoted action of Sir Francis Bell’, to cause embarrassment for the government.[92] In the weeks after the case it also ran special commentaries on the history of blasphemy, and directed readers to volumes of Sassoon’s poetry to sate increased demand for his work.

More characteristically, the public response to the episode was quite low-key. Some journalists like Pat Lawlor clearly took an interest in the case.[93] However, in contrast to contemporary cases of sedition like that of Hedwig Weitzel, the blasphemy case occasioned little commentary, and even less correspondence in the press.[94] Most newspapers simply reprinted the Press Association cable of the verdict.[95] The Evening Post in Wellington was more fulsome, partly because the case was local. The paper was not renowned for its support of the labour movement, and argued that the appropriateness of the Crown’s action was ‘beyond question’. Its editorial claimed that the final three lines of the poem were ‘well calculated to shock even those who are least squeamish’ about such things.[96] Yet it was also content with the outcome, and judged that the decision of the jury had done ‘substantial justice in a way to which these compromise verdicts rarely attain’. It welcomed the verdict, but also the rider: ‘If this does not amount to “not guilty, but don’t do it again,” it at least conveys a wholesome warning that the canons of realism which find favour with some of the minor poets of England are not to be regarded as binding on a New Zealand jury’.

H.E. Holland sent a telegram to Glover congratulating him on his acquittal, and the ‘sane verdict’ of the jury.[97] The Truth was usually a great critic of wowserism, Sabbatarianism, and all things conservative. The most colourful aspect of its report was its title: ‘Acquitted! … What Constitutes Blasphemy — The Ethics of the Great Australian Adjective — Whence Comes “Bloody”‘. While it provided a full report of the trial, its only independent comment was the moralistic quip that ‘a managerial or editorial chair is not exactly a bed of roses devoid of thorns’.[98]

Lack of debate is largely explicable in terms of the outcome of the trial. In all likelihood, a guilty verdict would have aroused considerably more controversy. Clearly, the implications of such a decision would have been more profound. More surprising, perhaps, is the lack of discussion within the denominational press. Jeremiads within the churches had consistently warned of declining moral standards within the nation, and pointed to the evils of profanity and obscenity to illustrate the point.[99] Yet, despite this, the religious press expressed neither delight in the prosecution, nor concern over its failure. The Catholic Tablet did refer to blasphemy on a number of occasions during the period between the publication and the trial, but made no reference to proceedings. Its article entitled ‘An Act to Promote Blasphemy’ was actually a complaint against the imposition of oaths, which it claimed was ‘the latest device for our national apostasy devised by Parr, Massey, Bell, and the rest of the scourge which the Almighty has inflicted on the Dominion for its sins’.[100] None of the other major denominational newspapers made any comment at all.

Some practical considerations probably shaped this lack of response. Apart from the highly parochial Anglican diocesan newspaper the Church Chronicle, no major denominational newspaper was published in Wellington. Furthermore, New Zealand Methodists were celebrating their centenary, and this took up considerable space in the New Zealand Methodist Times. There were other significant factors. Accusations of blasphemy by the religious were often rhetorical, and just as likely to be directed to other Christians as to unbelievers.[101] This signalled that the moral and theological dimensions of ‘blasphemy’ were probably more important to religious communities than the legal and political ones. Moreover, Crown and bench claimed that the primary issue in the Glover prosecution was public order. Many religious people would therefore have viewed it as an essentially secular matter, though conservatives may have been encouraged by the religious gloss the charge provided.

Relations between the churches and the labour movement were sensitive, and this was probably also an important factor. Most churches were wanting to reach workers rather than alienate them. Whatever else they may have felt about the issue, taking sides threatened more harm than good. Crucially, the churches represented mixed political constituencies, and tended to engage with political issues in particular ways at this time. State-sanctioned prosecution of blasphemy potentially marked a new level of state intervention into religious questions. The churches were probably uneasy about such a development. Most supported the principle of ‘secularity’ as protecting the freedoms and interests of the various denominations. Application of the laws of blasphemy represented precisely the kind of state encroachment that the churches had previously resisted.

It is puzzling that the Glover trial has not been better remembered within the labour movement. Labour history is replete with tales of persecution at the hands of the state, and the blasphemy case would seem a prime example. No doubt the failure of the prosecution is an important factor in this neglect. However, the lack of a constituency sufficiently concerned to keep the memory alive also seems important. Perhaps labour also viewed the case as an embarrassing anachronism best forgotten. The religious dimension of the charge probably posed the greatest difficulties. Attitudes to religion within the labour movement were, and remained, decidedly ambivalent. Labour was neither universally ‘indifferent’ to religion, nor actively promoted ‘irreligion’. Elements were hostile, and viewed it simply as part of the Establishment that needed to be swept aside. Such criticisms had considerable emotional and rhetorical force, but the lack of a state church in New Zealand meant that they quickly sounded hollow. The labour movement existed within a society that largely accepted the value of religion — even if there were strong currents pushing for its reform. Furthermore, there was always an important base of support for labour from among religious people, including those who, like Thorn, were steeped in Christian teaching.[102] Harping on about the case, and the law of blasphemy, risked alienating this group as well as potential allies within the churches. Labour could not afford to appear cavalier about causing religious offence, and had been working to combat the perception that it was irreligious. During the trial, Thorn had testified that there was a ‘definite instruction in the office not to publish matter attacking religion’.[103] In fact, Thorn had been trying to improve relations by including religious leaders’ perspectives, on the grounds that ‘many of the paper’s most loyal supporters are believers in the Christian religion’.[104] Significantly, this move generated a backlash (and a substantial volume of correspondence) from those who resented space being dedicated to religion. Given the difficulties of reconciling these interests many supporters found it easier to set religion aside.

The New Zealand Association of Rationalists did campaign for the repeal of the laws of blasphemy in the interwar years, though not with the zeal of the equivalent crusade in Britain. Despite hopes that repeal might occur after the Labour Party finally came to power in 1935, no such change transpired. Labour’s Attorney General, H.G.R. Mason, reiterated that the provisions of the Crimes Act did not restrict freedom of conscience or discussion. Moreover, since no indictment was possible without the leave of the Attorney General, there was already considerable protection.[105] Labour’s resistance was understandable. By this time it was a more populist party, and openly courting popular religious sentiment. Thus, John A. Lee’s 1938 survey of socialism in New Zealand probably over-stated the harmonious relationship between the churches and labour, while extolling the individual contributions of religious people.[106] The rationalist section of the labour movement was important, but never sufficiently large within New Zealand to lobby effectively on this issue. Moreover, strident criticism of organised religion was increasingly recognised as counter-productive. After World War I, Catholics, Methodists and other religious groups warmed increasingly to labour. From this time, debates about religion were also generally played down within the New Zealand labour movement. Respect for personal religious convictions was balanced by the fear that religion could be a divisive force within the movement and the wider electorate.

The trial of John Glover was made possible by a particular set of circumstances that existed in New Zealand after World War I. It was shaped by an unusual confluence of social, political, religious and legal factors. The trial is also a reminder that religion was an important factor in the contests of the period — and that religion, politics and labour intersected in significant ways during the interwar years. David Lawton has argued that blasphemy prosecutions always signify ‘the use of power through law to construct a notion of community that sets out to override and neutralise actual community difference’.[107] The Glover trial does seem to support the idea that blasphemy trials at this time were linked with questions of class. Blasphemy charges are revelatory of power relations, and class was a central factor in the dynamics this case revealed. However, the failure of the prosecution may also be taken to illustrate the limits of what has been termed the ‘great tightening’ within New Zealand society around this time.[108] The verdict of the jury and response to the trial suggests considerable ambivalence about this form of ‘homogenisation’. The trial certainly indicated that a contest was occurring in New Zealand — the attempt to deploy religion in this manner indicated just how heated the contest had become.

Geoffrey Troughton is a PhD candidate and lecturer in History at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. His research focuses on social and religious history in New Zealand.
<[email protected]>


* My thanks to Kerry Taylor for reading an earlier draft of this paper, and to the anonymous reviewers for Labour History.
1. For example, Margaret Thorn, Stick Out, Keep Left, [autobiography] edited by Elsie Locke and Jacquie Matthews, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1997, p. 47; Tim McBride, The New Zealand Civil Rights Handbook, Legal Information Service, Auckland, 2001, 9/25; I.L.M. Richardson, Religion and the Law, Sweet & Maxwell, Wellington, 1962, pp. 29–31. See also, Nicolas Walter, Blasphemy Ancient & Modern, Rationalist Press Association, London, 1990, p. 63; <>, accessed 2 November 2005.
2. Thorn’s memoir wrongly claims that her husband James Thorn was prosecuted, and that he was found guilty and fined £100.
3. See Rex Ahdar, ‘New Zealand and the Idea of a Christian State’, in John Stenhouse and Rex Ahdar (eds), God and Government: The New Zealand Experience, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2004, pp. 59–76.
4. For Hale’s ruling against the Surrey yeoman John Taylor, see G.D. Nokes, A History of the Crime of Blasphemy, Sweet & Maxwell, London, 1928, p. 48.
5. For example, Alain Cabantous has noted that blasphemous utterances in early modern Europe were often highly ritualised, and seldom intended to make theological points. The meanings attached to blasphemy were context-specific, and interest in the crime waxed and waned according to wider social, political and theological circumstances. Joss Marsh has emphasised the literary and linguistic dimensions of blasphemy prosecutions in nineteenth-century England. See Alain Cabantous, Blasphemy: Impious Speech in the West from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century, (trans.) Eric Rauth, Columbia University Press, New York, 1998; Joss Marsh, Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998.
6. David Lawton, Blasphemy, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1993.
7. Southwell had been convicted of blasphemy in Bristol in 1841, prior to immigrating to New Zealand, and continued to assist others defending similar charges. On Southwell and his conviction, see Edward Royle, Radical Politics 1790–1900: Religion and Unbelief, Longman, London, 1971, pp. 48–9; F.B. Smith, ‘Southwell, Charles, 1814–1860’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (hereafter DNZB), vol. 1, Allen & Unwin / Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1990, pp. 401–2. Also, Charles Southwell, A Plain Answer to the Query, “Ought There to be a Law Against Blasphemy?”, J. Taylor, Birmingham, 1842.
8. In the colonial period censorship laws were limited and fragmentary. These were consolidated and developed from the 1890s, most notably in the Offensive Publications Act 1892 and the Indecent Publications Act 1910. See Paul Christoffel, Censored: A Short History of Censorship in New Zealand, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1989, esp. pp. 3–14.
9. In 1921, there were 810 reported offences under the Police Offences Act for using ‘profane, indecent or obscene language’. Of these, there were 806 arrests or summons, 784 (760 male) were summarily convicted, 22 (21 male) were dismissed, and none went to trial. In the same year there were two summary convictions for publishing obscene matter. Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives (hereafter AJHR), 1922, H-16, pp. 15–16.
10. See Stephen White, ‘The Making of the New Zealand Criminal Code Act of 1893: A Sketch’, Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, vol. 16, 1986, pp. 353–76.
11. Statutes of New Zealand, 1893, no. 56, p. 348.
12. G.W.R. Palmer, ‘The Reform of the Crimes Act 1961’, Victoria University of Wellington Law Review, vol. 20, 1990, p. 11.
13. Consolidated Statutes of the Dominion of New Zealand, 1908, vol. 1, p. 598. The third clause in the Criminal Code Act of 1893 had read: ‘But no one is guilty of publishing a blasphemous libel for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or attempting to establish by arguments used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, any opinion whatever upon any religious subject’.
14. This trajectory is best developed in David Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain: 1789 to the Present, Ashgate, Aldershot, 1999.
15. See Nokes, A History of the Crime of Blasphemy, pp. 78–91, and Appendix B, pp. 147–60.
16. See Joss Lutz Marsh, ‘”Bibliolatry” and “Bible-Smashing”: G.W. Foote, George Meredith, and the Heretic Trope of the Book’, Victorian Studies, vol. 34, no. 3, 1991, pp. 315–36.
17. Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain, pp. 155–56.
18. Cited in Nokes, A History of the Crime of Blasphemy, p. 94.
19. For example, Marsh, Word Crimes, p. 156.
20. Despite the New Zealand law’s debt to J.F. Stephen, and the fact that Stephen ultimately became an advocate for repeal of the blasphemy laws. See Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain, pp. 160–62.
21. Maoriland Worker, 14 December 1921; cf. Truth, 25 February 1922.
22. Cf. Maoriland Worker, 11 May 1921; Evening Post, 18 August 1921.
23. Maoriland Worker, 8 February 1922. O’Regan was in the South Island defending workers from Blackball on a charge of conducting an unlawful strike. See, P.J. O’Regan Diary, 4–14 February 1922, O’Regan Papers, 76–165–1/1, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ (hereafter ATL).
24. Maoriland Worker, 15 February 1922.
25. The Maori concept of ‘tapu’ refers to things under cultural or religious prohibition, or more generally to things held sacred.
26. Maoriland Worker, 15 February 1922.
27. O’Regan was in Greymouth attending to other legal business when he heard of the Alliance’s approach. O’Regan Diary, 14 February 1922.
28. See Robin Cooke (ed.), Portrait of a Profession: The Centennial Book of the New Zealand Law Society, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1969, esp. p. 403; Geoffrey G. Hall, ‘Findlay, John George 1862–1929’, DNZB, URL: <http//>, accessed 27 September 2004.
29. He acted as President of the Wellington District Law Society in 1923. Cooke (ed.), Portrait of a Profession, pp. 159, 393.
30. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
31. This was particularly evident as Findlay’s attempts to introduce evidence relating to the character and intention of both the newspaper and Sassoon himself were blocked.
32. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
33. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
34. Gazette Law Reports, 1922, vol. 185, p. 187 (hereafter GLR).
35. James Thorn, the editor, testified that he found and included the material, and that Glover never saw a word of what went into the paper. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922; Evening Post, 23 February 1922.
36. GLR, 1922, p. 186.
37. GLR, 1922, p. 187.
38. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
39. GLR, 1922, pp. 186–87. While the editor controlled the content of the paper, the publisher was legally liable under the first clause of s 150.
40. GLR, 1922, p. 188.
41. In 1908, a London lecturer called Henry Boulter had been arrested on account of delivering speeches that denied the existence of Christ. However, in this instance there was also a public order dimension, as Boulter had delivered thinly veiled threats to kill anyone he found to be a Christian. Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain, p. 181.
42. See Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain, pp. 167–93.
43. On the history of blasphemy in Australia, see Peter Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition: 100 Years of Censorship in Australia, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1974, pp. 65–75.
44. Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition, p. 72.
45. The article was entitled, ‘Bolshevism Has Broken Out in Heaven. God Abdicates’. See Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition, pp. 73–74.
46. Maoriland Worker, 19 October 1921.
47. Nash, Blasphemy in Modern Britain, p. 197.
48. Maoriland Worker, 14 December 1921.
49. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
50. On Bell, see William Downie Stewart, The Right Honourable Sir Francis H.D. Bell, P.C., G.C.M.G., K.C.: His Life and Times, Butterworth, Wellington, 1937; W.J. Gardner, ‘Bell, Francis Henry Dillon 1851–1936’, DNZB, URL: <http//>, accessed 2 December 2004.
51. He was elected mayor of Wellington in 1891, 1892, and 1896, and entered the House of Representatives in the 1893 general election.
52. In the 1890s, Bell had declared himself a radical and socialist, agreeing with most of the Liberals legislation. Alan Mulgan once declared that ‘There was Toryism in him, but in many respects he was a Liberal. Indeed he was something of a Socialist.’ Cited in Cooke (ed.), Portrait of a Profession, p. 169. Bill Gardner has described him as ‘the supreme example of a tory radical in New Zealand politics’. See, Gardner, ‘Bell’.
53. Gardner, ‘Bell’.
54. O’Regan Diary, 31 January 1922.
55. For example, s.118 of the Crimes Act 1908.
56. See Paul Baker, King and Country Call: New Zealanders, Conscription and the Great War, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1988.
57. In fact, this was reiterating existing legislation. New Zealand Gazette, 20 September 1915, no. 110, p. 3263.
58. See 1916 Sedition Trials: Robert Semple, Fred R. Cooke, James Thorn, Peter Fraser and Tom Brindle, Maoriland Worker, Wellington, 1917; When Labour Fought Capitalism and Sung “The Red Flag”: A Pamphlet Reprinted to Recall the Stirring Days of 1916 when Robert Semple, James Thorn, Tom Brindle, Peter Fraser Stood Trial for Sedition, John A. Lee, Auckland, 1949.
59. For example, Evening Post, 3 May 1921. The New Zealand Official Yearbook, 1921–22, p. 163, listed 96 convictions for offences under War Regulations. In time, other legislation was introduced that effectively made some war regulations permanent. On this see Graeme Dunstall, A Policeman’s Paradise? Policing a Stable Society 1918–1945, The History of Policing in New Zealand, vol. 4, Dunmore Press in association with the Historical Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, Palmerston North, 1999, pp. 256–57.
60. In Parliament, opponents of the Act highlighted the clauses dealing with seditious strikes, arguing that these were designed to limit the power of organised workers and silence contrary opinion. See New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, 1920, vol. 187, pp. 523–40.
61. These included others poems like Sassoon’s ‘Suicide in the Trenches’, ‘The March’ by J.C. Squire, and Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’. Maoriland Worker, 2 November 1921.
62. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
63. H.E. Holland, Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and the Process of their Conversion, H.E. Holland, Wellington, 1919.
64. See Stewart, The Right Honourable Sir Francis H.D. Bell, pp. 177–78.
65. See R.P. Davis, ‘New Zealand Labour’s “Irish Campaign”, 1916–1921’, Political Science, vol. 19, no. 2, 1967, pp. 13–23; R.P. Davis, Irish Issues in New Zealand Politics 1868–1922, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 1974, pp. 205–12.
66. See Outlook, 12 December 1921.
67. Graeme Dunstall, ‘Governments, the Police and the Left 1912–51’, in Pat Moloney and Kerry Taylor (eds), On the Left: Essays on Socialism in New Zealand, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2002, p. 94.
68. Evening Post, 18 August, 1921.
69. For example, Maoriland Worker, 19 October 1921; Maoriland Worker, 2, 9 and 30 November 1921.
70. For example, Evening Post, 3 May 1921; Stewart, pp. 174–87.
71. Dunstall, Policeman’s Paradise, pp. 258–59.
72. For example, Anna Green, British Capital, Antipodean Labour: Working the New Zealand Waterfront, 1915–1951, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2001, p. 61.
73. See New Zealand Official Yearbook, 1926, p.762. The rises followed a slight falling back during the war years, and exceeded those experienced during the significant industrial action of 1912–13.
74. On this breach see Bruce Brown, The Rise of New Zealand Labour: A History of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1916 to 1940, Price Milburn, Wellington, 1962, pp. 46–48.
75. Despite disappointments in terms of his own parliamentary aspirations, Thorn was an ardent supporter of the NZLP having worked for the Maoriland Worker since 1916. He edited the paper and its successor the New Zealand Worker between 1921 and 1932, before entering Parliament in 1935 as the Labour Member for Thames.
76. Correspondence with Karen de Malmanche, Crown Law Office, 28 August 2005.
77. Evening Post, 6 May 1921; Maoriland Worker, 11 May 1921.
78. Maoriland Worker, 5 and 12 May 1911, and 31 March 1920. This sometimes indicated rejection of Christianity in favour of an alternative religion, but the idea could also be used to affirm the Christian quality of socialist ideals.
79. For example, Maoriland Worker, 1 July 1914, and 7 April 1920.
80. Maoriland Worker, 2 November 1921.
81. Maoriland Worker, 14 December 1921.
82. Long-standing campaigns on moral issues and religious issues were visible and well co-ordinated. The battle for national prohibition championed by the evangelical churches probably reached its zenith in 1919. However, the New Zealand Alliance was still an active force in the early 1920s. The Bible-in-Schools movement lost considerable momentum during the war, but gained ground again in the early 1920s through a renewed legislative campaign.
83. The most important theses on the PPA are H.S. Moores, ‘The Rise of the Protestant Political Association: Sectarianism in New Zealand During World War I’, MA thesis, Department of History, University of Auckland, 1966; Max Satchell, ‘Pulpit Politics: The Protestant Political Association in Dunedin from 1917 to 1922’, BA (Hons) thesis, Department of History, University of Otago, 1983.
84. P.S. O’Connor, ‘Sectarian Conflict in New Zealand, 1911–1920’, Political Science, vol. 19, no. 1, 1967, p. 9.
85. Elliott had served in several churches in Australia, and acted as secretary of the Queensland Baptist Union between 1906 and 1909. In New Zealand, he was the pastor of Mount Eden Baptist church in Auckland from 1909 until 1917 when he left the pastorate to become full-time organiser for the Protestant Political Association of New Zealand (PPA) which he had founded.
86. Coleman, Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition, pp. 70–72.
87. Evening Post, 1 March 1922.
88. For example, O’Connor, ‘Sectarian Conflict’, pp. 3–16. There are also good arguments to suggest that political management was as important as advancing the PPA’s particular causes. On this see Barry Gustafson, ‘Massey, William Ferguson, 1856–1925’, DNZB, URL: <http//>, accessed 1 November, 2005; Miles Fairburn, ‘The Farmer’s Take Over’, in Keith Sinclair (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand, Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1990, pp. 185–209. On Massey generally, see W.J. Gardner, ‘The Rise of W.F. Massey, 1891–1912’, Political Science vol. 13, no. 1, 1961, pp. 3–30; W.J. Gardner, ‘W.F. Massey in Power, 1912–1925’, Political Science vol. 13, no. 2, 1961, pp. 3–30; W.J. Gardner, William Massey, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1969.
89. P.S. O’Connor, ‘Mr Massey and the P.P.A. — A Suspicion Confirmed’, New Zealand Journal of Public Administration, vol. 28, no. 2, 1966, pp. 69–74, quote p. 73.
90. See Fairburn, ‘The Farmer’s Take Over’, pp. 201–03.
91. The PPA and Reform finally parted ways in 1925 when Gordon Coates disowned them. Gardner, ‘W.F. Massey in Power’, p. 26; O’Connor, ‘Mr Massey’, pp. 73–74.
92. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922. See also Truth, 25 February 1922. Sassoon’s comments were extracted from an edition of the Daily News (London) the previous year.
93. See Scrapbook A, Patrick Anthony Lawlor Papers, 77–067–6/01, ATL.
94. Cf. Roger Openshaw, ‘”A Spirit of Bolshevism”: The Weitzel Case of 1921 and its Impact on the New Zealand Educational System’, Political Science, vol. 33, no. 2, 1981, pp. 127–39.
95. NZ Herald, 23 February 1922; Press, 23 February 1922. The Grey River Argus, 23 February 1922 adapted this report slightly, only to erroneously suggest that Findlay had worked for the prosecution.
96. Evening Post, 23 February 1922.
97. Maoriland Worker, 1 March 1922.
98. Truth, 25 February 1922.
99. See Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, 1903, p. 89, which referred to gambling, impurity, and profanity as a ‘trinity of evils’. Cf. A.H. Collins, How Far and Why Have the Churches Failed? A Sermon Preached in the Ponsonby Baptist Church, Sunday Morning, February 5, 1899, Wright & Jaques, Auckland, 1899, p. 9.
100. New Zealand Tablet, 5 January 1922.
101. For example, Reaper, February 1925; Reaper, April 1926.
102. On religious influences within the early labour movement, see Barry Gustafson, Labour’s Path to Political Independence: The Origins and Establishment of the New Zealand Labour Party 1900–19, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1980, pp. 120–31. See Thorn, pp. 21, 27–28, 32,
103. The King v John Glover, 1922, AAOM W3265 Box 2282 7/1922, Archives New Zealand, Wellington, NZ.
104. Maoriland Worker, 14 December 1921.
105. See Bill Cooke, ‘”The Best of Causes”: A Critical History of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists’, PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 1998, pp.53–54; New Zealand Rationalist, vol. 1, no. 4, 1939–40, p.18.
106. John A. Lee, Socialism in New Zealand, T. Werner Laurie, London, 1938, pp.267–68.
107. Lawton, Blasphemy, p. 111.
108. See James Belich, Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders From the 1880s to the Year 2000, Allen Lane, Auckland, 2001, esp. pp. 121–25 and following chapters.

By Geoffrey Troughton