Here's the Office:
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, R16)Archives New Zealand pointed to some of the correspondence around it too. Silly religious people wanting to ban the film.
The classification of the 1979 film Life of Brian was hotly debated both in New Zealand and overseas. Christian groups in New Zealand called for the film to be banned before the it had arrived in New Zealand. Chief Censor of Films Bernard Tunnicliffe received more letters about Life of Brian than any other film submitted for classification at that time. Life of Brian was classified according to criteria set out in the Cinematograph Films Act 1976 and on 18 February 1980 was classified as restricted to those aged 16 years and over (R16). Many correspondents who had requested a ban on the film were upset with the R16 classification.
A petition was launched in July 1980 requesting that the Minister of Internal Affairs withdraw the film from public release. While the petition gathered 12,352 signatures it was unsuccessful in convincing the Minister to stop the exhibition of the film. There were also members of the public who supported the R16 classification of Life of Brian. One parent wrote to the Chief Censor telling him that they initially thought that the film should be classified lower than R16 because they thought that their 12 year old daughter would have enjoyed most of it, however they "commend(ed) (his) refusal to ban it and the rating (he) awarded it". Another letter to a newspaper editor from Monty Python fans in Lower Hutt pointed out that they were "…distressed by the number of Christians that object to the film and believe that…if the film upsets them, they shouldn't go and see it…Life of Brian is purely meant for enjoyment and the only one restriction should be made only — those with a sense of humour need go".
What's less funny is that that 1980's ruling still stands. Because Christians were powerful enough, in 1980, to ensure that the film received an R16, and because it hasn't been re-classified, the ruling still stands. And now that you know that it is R16, the maximum fine is $10,000 and you could go to jail for up to three months. Section 126.
Regardless of the censor, I'll likely show the film to the kids when they're in their early teens.
The Classification Office notes that anybody can submit a film for reconsideration. I'm not going to. Monty Python specialised in sending up the absurd; the film's current rating is an absurdity highlighting the rather substantial deficiencies of the system.