New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quit Mormon Church to support gay rights

The incoming Prime Minister of New Zealand is a former Mormon who rejected the church over their views on gay rights.

Jacinda Ardern has revealed she rejected the church she grew up in as after making gay friends as an adult.

Ardern is due to become the youngest ever Prime Minister of New Zealand, at 37, after forming a coalition government between Labour and NZ First, with the support of the Green Party.

During the general election campaign, Ms Ardern spoke about how she came to support LGBT rights.

The New Zealand native was raised as a Mormon – a religion which holds staunch anti-LGBT views and continues to oppose same-sex marriage.

The tax exempt Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) was also accused of funding the Proposition 8 campaign in California, which sought to block marriage equality.

Explaining her evolving views, she told the New Zealand Herald: “‘For a lot of years, I put it to the back of my mind. I think it was too unsettling.

“If something like religion is part of your foundation, and then suddenly you start questioning that – it’s quite a confronting thing to deal with.

“Even before the Civil Union Bill came up, I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I was still going to church every so often and I just remember thinking ‘this is really inconsistent – I’m either doing a disservice to the church or my friends’.

“Because how could I subscribe to a religion that just didn’t account for them?

“It was one of the issues that became a real flashpoint.

“You drift along a bit, there are always going to be things you can’t reconcile, but I could never reconcile what I saw as discrimination in a religion that was otherwise very focused on tolerance and kindness.”

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The revelations led her to leave the church and become agnostic about religion.

“I have a real respect for people who have religion as a foundation in their lives. And I respect people who don’t.

“I’m agnostic. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.

“I just think people should be free to have their personal beliefs and not be persecuted for it, whether they be atheist or staunch church members.”

After learning that she would become PM, the Labour politician said: “This is an exciting day. We aspire to be a government for all New Zealanders and one that will seize the opportunity to build a fairer, better New Zealand,’ she announced.

“We will work hard to ensure New Zealand is once again a world leader, a country we can all be proud of. We said we could do this, we will do this.”