I have just returned from the Court of Appeal in Melbourne where the two Dannys have had their appeal to their conviction of vilification charges upheld. The three judges all found that sections of the Racial and Religious Intolerance Act were wrongly interpreted in the original decision, and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) will now have to hear the case all over again, with a new judge, and no new evidence or witnesses allowed. Also, the original orders to the two Dannys (public retractions, ceasing from similar activity in the future, etc.) have been dropped as well.
And the judges ordered the Islamic Council of Victoria to pay half of the costs of the appeal which Catch the Fire Ministries had to pay! The ICV immediately sought to contest that economic decision.
Is this the best possible outcome of the case? I believe so. Of course if the appeal were upheld, and the case thrown out altogether, that would seem the best option. It would certainly be best in many ways for the two Dannys. It has cost them many thousands of hours in time, and many hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. With this newest decision, four years of grief and worry will now be supplemented by more uncertainty, expense and hassle.
Yet as I told both Dannys after the decision this morning, this may be a blessing in disguise. The church could have too easily said, we won, and left it at that. It could have rolled back to sleep, lost its alertness and vigilance, and forgotten that this is still a bad law that needs to be overturned.
With this decision, the church will hopefully still stay vigilant, and attention will still be focused on this tragic case and this horrible law. So from my perspective, this is the best possible outcome.
Yes it means more grief and costs for the two Dannys, but the best outcome would be one in which God is glorified and the gospel is further advanced. I think this decision helps to do those two things.
It is a shame in some ways that this case will now drag on and on, but we praise God that all three judges agreed with the appeal, or parts of it, and they effectively said that the original guilty verdict was flawed and therefore nullified. The whole case has really been one long farce, as is the legislation that lies behind it. This is a terrible law and the Appeal Court has effectively agreed that it is.
You can look up the decision on the Supreme Court website: www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VSCA/2006/284.html
A write-up in the Age website can be found here: www.theage.com.au/news/national/court-orders-vilification-retrial/2006/12/14/1165685796628.html
In many ways this is a real victory and a great outcome. A million thanks to all who prayed or have been involved in other ways. The battle is not yet over, but this has been a real bit of encouragement. It is certainly a victory for religious freedom and common sense.
Please pray for Pastor Danny Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot as they now face more waiting, uncertainty, hardship and expense.