Six Questions About Australia’s New ‘Religious Vilification’ Law

Six Questions About Australia’s New ‘Religious Vilification’ Law

I should preface these questions by saying that all Australians, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, LGBTQ, or otherwise, deserve equal treatment under the law of Australia, and the horrible bigotry some Muslims have faced in recent times, which inspired this new amendment to the Discrimination Act, should not be tolerated.  Having said this, I have a few questions about the scope and function of this new amendment to the Discrimination Act.

 

  1. Would it be considered religious vilification under the amendment to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for Ghazwa Khan, headmaster of Sydney’s Al-Faisal college, who openly discourages and demonizes homosexuality and teaches faculty and students to embrace this homophobia as well?

 

  1. Would it be considered vilification to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for the leader of the Australian Christian Lobby, who, in accordance with his religious beliefs, actively seeks to thwart the legal rights of same-sex couples in Australia?

 

  1. Would it be considered vilification to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for the anti-Semitic Islamic cleric Keysar Trad, who has vilified moderate Muslims (Eg. Ataruk), called upon the Lebanese Prime Minister to reject Australian peacekeepers, championed Hilaly, who argues that women who are raped are generally at fault, and who, in 2014, openly defended the vile hate video released by the “Soldiers of Khalifa’?

 

  1. Would it be considered vilification to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for accused paedophile Cardinal George Pell, who is openly and unapologetically homophobic, and who, was complicit in the Church’s covering-up of the sexual abuse of children?

 

  1. Would it be considered vilification to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for religious fundamentalists like Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri, who, for religious reasons, mutilate, and encourage the mutilation of, the genitals of female infants in Australia?

 

  1. Finally, would it be considered vilification to openly criticize, ridicule and inspire contempt for any person who openly promotes harmful, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, and hateful portions of their religious scriptures and doctrines, whether Islamic, Christian, or Jewish?

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Michael A. Sherlock

 

4 thoughts on “Six Questions About Australia’s New ‘Religious Vilification’ Law

  1. These can all be answered by the Law (as it does) will set the limits. It’s for the courts to figure out. Don’t like it make your own country, that’s how it works. You don’t seem to address on the flip-side that Ghazwa Khan, leader of the Australian Christian Lobby, Keysar Trad, George Pell, etc are compelled by the same laws to not express illegal views. Once again, you can’t know what the limits of the law will be without a crystal ball.

  2. The answer to every question posed I think would be no. The wording of the ACTs laws isn’t novel. Queensland, Tasmanian and the ACT all have similar religious vilification statutes. The public act has to incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or group of persons. Consider the interoperation as given by Nettle JA in the Catch the fire case: “It is a question of whether the natural and ordinary effect of the conduct is to incite hatred or other relevant emotion in the circumstances of the case”
    The examples pointed out above deal entirely with calling individuals out for position that may themselves be considered vilification, so, while it will depend on exactly what has been said, criticising people for things that they have said and done probably doesn’t have the effect of inciting violence against religious groups. These laws are not a shield from criticism – asking whether they are is the same the sort of rampant misrepresentation of the likes engaged in by conservatives when they seek to shield themselves from any social consequence of islamophobia or homophobia or racism. The sort of Bill leaks the real victim because he got called out for a racist cartoon, and the view that freedom of expression some entails that right wing bigots are immune from criticism.

    In any case, these laws are supported by a broad defence for comment of an issue in the public interest that is made in good faith.

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