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.

Australia introduced a Racial Hatred Act in 1995, introducing the notion of vilification based on race into the law. There is no law regarding religious discrimination or vilification at the federal level - although HREOC, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission - now called the Australian Human Rights Commission, has long advocated for such an Act.

With a federal Labor government, under Kevin Rudd, Australia is more likely to introduce racial and religious vilification laws.
In December 2003, the then Shadow Attorney-General Robert McClelland introduced a Private Members Bill titled the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.
Labor, in 1994, flagged such a Bill but dropped it when it was opposed by Christians. It forms part of the Labor Party platform . . .

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 Bracks Labor government released a Discussion Paper and a proposed 'Model Bill' in December 2000, proposing vilification laws based on race and religion.

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).
A second section in the Act that is for criminal activities - this applies when there is intent to incite hatred etc or when physical violence is involved. It is this section of the Act that carries prescribed fines of $6000 for individuals and $30,000 for corporations. Serious Religious Vilification in Section 24 (Part 4).
See Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

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.
For the vote in the Legislative Assembly, click here. Scroll to P 1673.
For the vote in the Legislative Council, click here (page 1513).

Several cases have been taken against Christians using this law - see links at left.
For an overview of the campaign conducted against this law, see our archived Campaign page.

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.
Some amendments were passed by the Labor government in May 2006, but they do not remove the problems inherent in this law.

The first state in Australia to introduce vilification law was NSW but they had it race and for homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, and transgender status - but NOT for religion. See overview on NSW Anti-Discrimination Board website.
In 2005, then NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr openly opposed religious vilification laws.
The NSW government has not introduced religious vilification laws.

The Queensland government passed a similar law to the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act called the Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act 2001 (available in pdf) which extended the law to outlaw racial and religious vilification. Sexuality vilification was later added. See overview on ADCQ website.

Following on from Victoria, Tasmania passed vilification or 'inciting hatred' laws on the grounds of religion, race, disability and sexual orientation. This is included in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998. (S 19)

South Australia
The South Australian government proposed racial and religious vilification laws in 2003. Due to opposition from churches and the community, based on the negative experiences of such laws in Victoria, the proposal for religious vilification laws was dropped. However, SA has a racial vilification law as well as a range of anti-discrimination laws.
The current SA laws on discrimination and vilification - click here.

Western Australia
The WA government launched a Consultation Paper proposing racial and religious vilification laws in early August 2004.
Submissions were invited from the public.
Churches geared up to ask the government not to introduce these divisive laws.
The government proceeded to enact stricter racial vilification laws - however, they dropped the proposal for religious vilification laws.

For further details, see links on the left.

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