Christopher Luxon, whose evangelical Protestant Christian faith is widely known, says he is keeping his religion and his politics separate in his new role as National’s leader.
In response to questions from the media on Tuesday afternoon, the Botany MP said he appreciated the chance to be able to explain because "my faith has been often misrepresented and portrayed very negatively".
Luxon said his faith had “grounded” him and given him a view of something “bigger than [himself]”.
“But, I want to be very clear: We have a separation between politics and faith.
“People shouldn’t be selecting an MP because of their faith, and they shouldn’t not be selecting an MP because of their faith.”
The first-term MP said his role was to represent people of all faiths.
It’s not the first time Luxon had addressed his faith in public.
Luxon was known to attend a church in Auckland’s Newmarket called the Upper Room. He told the Herald in February he had not attended the church in a few years and was not aware of the views of the pastor, which attracted scrutiny for being conspiratorial.
In his maiden speech delivered in March, Luxon said it had become “acceptable to stereotype those who have a Christian faith in public life as being extreme”.
He said then that his faith was “personal”.
“It is not in itself a political agenda. I believe no religion should dictate to the state, and no politician should use the political platform they have to force their beliefs on others.”
Luxon was elected National’s leader after former leader Simon Bridges pulled out of that race on Tuesday morning.
Nicola Willis, considered among National's more progressive MPs, was named Luxon's deputy.
In Luxon’s first speech as leader, he said the pair represented “the new National Party that New Zealand needs”.
Luxon had been signalling he was “part of the future”, rather than the past, since his candidacy in Botany in 2020.
He also addressed his Christian faith at the time. Luxon said at a community candidates’ forum: “Someone like me could have a very strong faith but not be proselytising.”
Luxon previously said he was against euthanasia, abortion reform, and last year’s cannabis referendum.
However, he added, the view of his constituents on those issues was really important.
One constituent 1News spoke to in Botany earlier on Tuesday said he felt Luxon would be a decent leader given his experience as Air New Zealand's former CEO.
Another constituent said: “I think he’s going to be a good [leader] — he’s a Christian.”