Among the worst laws to have been recently enacted are religious vilification laws. They are a direct threat to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience. They serve no useful purpose in a democratic society. But such laws greatly appeal to secularists and statists who seek to stifle the proclamation of the Christian gospel.
Muslims are also quite keen on these laws, and usually have been among the main groups behind them. (Jewish groups sometimes are also pushing for such laws, but if anyone has a reason to do so, it would be the Jews who certainly have been vilified over the years. They should realise however that the greatest allies of the Jews are not Muslims, but Christians. Evangelical Christians for example have been the greatest supporters of Israel. But that is the stuff of another article.)
Here in Victoria such laws were introduced in 2001. I twice publically debated the author of this lousy law before it was passed. On both occasions she assured us there would not be a flood of cases after the law goes through. To which I replied, ‘If there is not going to be much need of the law, then why introduce it in the first place?’
But numerous vexatious cases did occur, the most infamous of which was the ‘Two Dannys’ case. These Christian pastors were accused of vilifying Muslims, and a five-year legal battle ensued. After spending over a half million dollars in defence fees, the initial guilty charge was thrown out in an appeals case.
It was an incredibly bad case which I and others have written up elsewhere. The only good thing to come out of this Victorian law was what a good example it served of why such laws should not be passed. Indeed, one of the Dannys later went over to the UK when they were debating similar legislation, and he managed to help persuade at least the House of Lords what an idiotic law this was. It sadly passed nonetheless, but in amended form.
In his important new book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, Christopher Caldwell remarks on the British law. He notes that all the law did was give legal protections to Muslims against criticism. Exactly, that is just what the Victorian law did.
Such laws have nothing to do with unity and getting along, but everything to do with making Islam the only religion to be above any criticism. Says Caldwell of the 2006 UK law, “No other faith in modern times has ever demanded anything remotely similar of the British government. The real goal of the law was to protect Islam’s tenets from public criticism. The law’s proponents … often admitted as much.”
To those who say Jews and Sikhs were already protected by anti-racism laws, Caldwell replies: “This is a dangerous analogy. Protecting people from criticism of features they cannot control – skin color, sex, ethnicity – is different than protecting them from criticism of their beliefs. And the law against incitement to religious hatred was unprecedented in its scope.” The law in effect was nothing other than a “postmodern blasphemy law”.
Anyway, that is now history. How has the UK law – and other similar types of legislation there – been travelling? They have been disastrous, as expected. Let me simply mention the most recent case, which was reported on in the English press just today. Here is how the story opens:
“A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel. Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a Muslim woman complained to police that she had been offended by their comments. They have been charged under public order laws with using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words’ that were ‘religiously aggravated’. The couple, whose trial has been set for December, face a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record if they are convicted.”
This is another blatant example of those who would seek to contend for the Christian faith coming under attack from Muslims – with Government help. Islam has become a politically protected religion in the UK and other parts of the West, while it has become open season on those who seek to stand up for their Christian beliefs.
Indeed, there is more than just bad law at work here. The whole mindset of the West has been poisoned to seek protections for Islam, while nullifying the Christian gospel and its proclamation. As Caldwell argues, there is “already a de facto blasphemy law benefitting Muslims”.
He explains, “It arises from the proven willingness of religious fanatics – whether in Western societies or in the governments of Muslim countries – to commit violence against anyone, even private citizens in the West, who address Islam in a way they do not approve of.”
He cites a string of such examples, from the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie to the standing death threats issued against Dutch politician Geert Wilders. “There is clearly a kind of standing fatwa against Islam’s harshest and most pointed critics. It is sufficient to render discussion of Islam, as a personal matter, less than free at every level of society.”
The latest act of anti-Christian bigotry in the UK is simply the logical outcome of laws being passed which seek, in effect, to make Islam the world’s first politically protected religion. And the number one faith to suffer as a result is of course biblical Christianity. Those who take their faith seriously, and seek to proclaim and defend it publically are the real losers under such laws, just as Muslims are the main beneficiaries.
If nothing else, it is hoped that the horrific cases that have occurred in Victoria and the UK because of such laws will act as a deterrent elsewhere. The only good they can serve is to stand as a glaring bad example, reminding us of legislation which should be avoided like the plague.