CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Beginning of the End of Christianity in Australia?

Dec 18, 2004

On Friday December 17 two Christian pastors were found guilty of vilifying Muslims. The decision, handed down in Melbourne, could mark the beginning of the end of freedom of speech in Australia, and the official restriction of proclaiming the Christian gospel.

Judge Higgins said that the two pastors, Daniel Scot (who is a former Muslim), and Danny Nalliah, breached section 8 of the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 which says a person cannot engage in conduct that “incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons”.

While exemptions are in place for “any genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purposes; or any purpose that is in the public interest”, the Judge found that these exceptions did not here apply, because the person’s conduct could “not be regarded as reasonable and in good faith”.

Interestingly, section 9 of the Act says a “person’s motive in engaging in any conduct is irrelevant”. If so, how can one be accused of acting in bad faith? Who decides what is reasonable here or unreasonable?

The Judge said that Pastor Scot “failed to differentiate between Muslims throughout the world, that he preached a literal translation of the Quran and of Muslims’ religious practices which were not mainstream”.

Most Muslims would of course object to this, arguing that they do adhere to a literal understanding and translation of the Quran. And how does a secular judge with no expertise in religion make such decisions, when Islamic scholars themselves are divided on such crucial questions of theology, interpretation and exegesis?

Much of what the Judge considered offensive was simply quotations from the Quran itself. To argue that quoting a religious book makes one guilty of vilification would put 98% of religious discussions out of bounds.

The truth is, probably the majority of what any Christian has said or written about other faiths will be found to be vilifying, based on the decisions of the Judge. Many of us are now liable for jail terms or hefty fines.

This could well be the beginning of a government-sanctioned crackdown on Christianity in Victoria. And if some Federal Labor Members of Parliament have their way, national laws would be introduced as well, threatening believers right across the country.

This decision must serve as a wake up call to all believers.

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