Racial and Religious Tolerance Legislation
Racial and religious tolerance laws have been enacted around the world, increasingly so in recent years. Sometimes they are called 'hatred' laws or 'vilification' laws. Most countries that have introduced such laws have ONLY introduced racial hatred laws.
However, in recent years we have seen an increasing number of countries introduce religious vilification laws. The most controversial of these was in Victoria, Australia. [More on those laws below...]
Prior to the recent spate of such laws, influenced by UN Charters and treaties, the focus of the law was to criminalise ACTIONS - such as assault, abuse etc - that could be measured and assessed by the criminal justice system; by judges or juries.
Salt Shakers opposes vilification laws as they seek to criminalise thoughts and repress responsible freedom of speech.
With a federal Labor government, under Kevin Rudd, Australia is more likely to introduce racial and religious vilification laws.
HREOC/AHRC has a page outlining the racial vilification laws in Australia.
The laws on racial vilification are outlined on the Racism NO Way website. This also includes references to religious vilification laws.
The Discussion Paper proposed making it an offence to "offend, insult or humiliate" someone on racial or religious grounds. Motive was to be irrelevant.
Sadly, some Christians thought we should not be concerned about this proposal and others actually supported it. After much lobbying, including some 5,000 submissions against the legislation, mainly from individuals, the final bill was watered down and passed in mid 2001. The Act does not define what 'vilification' actually is, but says that one cannot incite hatred, severe contempt or severe ridicule against someone on the basis of their race or religion. There is an exemption for religious discussion 'done reasonably and in good faith'.
The law is in two parts - the first is under the Equal Opportunity Commission and then, if conciliation is unsuccessful, a hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The complaint is being heard under this section of the Act. Section 8 of the Act (Part 2, Division 1).
The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, which outlaws vilification based on one’s race or religion, was debated in the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) on 5 June 2001, where it was passed at 4.30 am by 69 to 11. All National Party MPs, two Independents (Russell Savage, Craig Ingram) and three Liberals (Tony Plowman, Gordon Ashley, Inga Peulich) voted against the Bill. Seven Liberals abstained from the vote. The Legislative Council (Upper House), with a Coalition majority, passed the Bill by 32 – 9 on Thursday 14 June 2001. Again the National Party opposed the bill. Three Liberals also voted against the Bill (Bruce Atkinson, Ron Bowden, Chris Strong). Two Liberals abstained from the vote.
Several cases have been taken against Christians using this law - see links at left.
Over the years, there have been repeated calls for this law to be repealed, in particular the religious vilification law.
In 2006, a petition with almost 28,000 signatures was presented to the Victorian parliament calling for its repeal. All political parties except Labor spoke at a rally on 8 August, 2006, on the steps of the parliament, organised by the Coalition for Free Speech, calling for the repeal of the religious vilification law (although the Liberals said they would repeal it and review the situation.) Read our report of the rally. Read media report of rally.