VCAT case - 'The Two Dannys'
Complaint against Catch the Fire Ministries and Pastors Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah by the Islamic Council of Victoria.
The complaint of 'religious vilification' was made in 2002 by the Islamic Council of Victoria under Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act (Section 8 and 11).
The case was finally resolved with an agreed statement in 2007, more than five years after the complaint was first made.
Following the section below about the case being resolved in 2007, this page has an Overview of about the case plus Updates on each stage of the case.
Each section of the case (original complaint, VCAT hearing, penalty, Appeal and Final Resolution etc) has its own page as shown by the sections on the left.
Documents relating to the case are also provided, including a transcript of the original seminar by Pastor Scot.
A SIX page Summary and Overview of the case is now downloadable.
A TWO page Summary of the case is also available.
FINAL UPDATE: 22 June 2007
Religious Vilification complaint - finally resolved
It is over FIVE years since the Islamic Council of Victoria made a complaint of religious vilification against Catch the Fire Ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot.
In December, 2006 the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld an appeal made by Catch the Fire Ministries and the two pastors against the VCAT decision made by Judge Michael Higgins against CTFM.
The case returned to VCAT - and was scheduled for a re-hearing on the same evidence with a different Tribunal Member. Prior to that hearing the case went to mediation and was resolved at a Mediation held on Friday 22 June 2007.
The ICV withdrew the complaint and an official Statement was put out jointly by Catch the Fire Ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah, Pastor Daniel Scot and the Islamic Council of Victoria.
Click here to read the Statement, media reports and a response from Salt Shakers....
Overview of case
The complaint made by the Islamic Council of Victoria and others against Catch the Fire Ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot.
Two Australian pastors, Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, and Danny Nalliah's ministry Catch the Fire Ministries, were involved in a case at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) and the Equal Opportunity Commission for more than FIVE years - to answer a complaint of religious vilification that was brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria and three Muslim converts.
Pastor Daniel Scot presented a seminar on Islam in March 2002 in Melbourne. The seminar was organised by Pastor Danny Nalliah and his group, Catch The Fire Ministries in response to questions following the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001.
The seminar presented information on jihad in the Qur'an, compared the Bible and the Qur'an and talked about how to reach out to Muslims in love. Three Muslim converts attended parts of the seminar and then lodged a complaint, claiming that it "incited hatred" against Muslims in Australia.
The original complaint cited some statements supposedly made at the seminar, statements from a Catch the Fire Ministries newsletter and an article on Islam placed on the the CTFM website.
This document includes the actual complaints made and shows that in many cases the statements were misheard and/or misquoted by the complainants. CTFM had taped and transcribed the seminar so they had an accurate record of what was said. The downside of that was that, when the judge at VCAT later ordered that the tapes be given to the ICV, the complainants re-wrote parts of the complaint to match what had ACTUALLY been said!
A conciliation session was held by the Equal Opportunity Commission to try and resolve the complaint.
When this was unsuccessful, the Islamic Council of Victoria chose to take the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) where a mediation session was held. This was also unsuccessful. The Islamic Council then took the matter to a hearing at VCAT.
The hearing began on 15 October 2003 - there was a break during November and again over the Christmas holiday period. The hearing resumed again on 12 February 2004 and went until 5 March - almost 40 days! Pastor Nalliah was re-examined on 18 March (due to commitments overseas) and a brief hearing to arrange final details for submissions by the legal counsel was held on 29 March 2004.
The barrister for Catch The Fire Ministries, Mr David Perkins, then prepared a submission for the judge, as did the counsel for the ICV. These were submitted around the end of May 2004. Two weeks were then allowed for counter-submissions to be prepared and submitted. Then the judge, Michael Higgins, considered the evidence, witness statements and submissions before coming to a decision.
The decision was announced on 17 December 2004 - the judge found that the men had 'breached the Act'. A penalty hearing was held in May 2005 and the penalty or 'remedy' was announced in June 2005.
As the Updates below outline, Catch the Fire Ministries appealed against the decision to the Victorian Supreme Court's Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard in August 2006 and the appeal was granted in December 2006. The ICV was ordered to pay half the costs of Catch the Fire and the pastors.
The case was returned to VCAT - prior to a hearing being held, the parties had a mediation and the case was settled with an agreement in June 2007 (see above).
This was a lengthy case that deeply affects our freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this nation. The eyes of the world have been on this case since 2002.
The Updates in reverse date order detail the events following the COMPLETION of the initial VCAT hearing.
Salt Shakers monitored this case and prepared daily updates on the Tribunal hearing and the Court of Appeal hearing. The following Updates highlight the major developments in the case.
Update: 28 March 2007
A Directions Hearing had been scheduled for Friday - 30 March 2007 - before Justice Stuart Morris, President of VCAT. Catch the Fire Ministries and the Islamic Council jointly applied to VCAT to postpone the Directions Hearing since some discussions are still underway about resolving the case.
Also of particular interest is the fact that Justice Stuart Morris resigned last week as the president of VCAT and as a Supreme Court judge! He will remain at VCAT for the next month.
14 December 2006 - 'Catch the Fire' Appeal allowed!
The Court of Appeal (Supreme Court) of Victoria has ALLOWED the appeal sought by Catch The Fire Ministries, Pastor Danny Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot.
Update: Catch the Fire Ministries Appeal AUGUST 2006
The Court of Appeal (of the Supreme Court in Victoria) heard the appeal by Catch the Fire Ministriesand Pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot on August 21 and 22, 2006.
Thanks to those who contributed to the Appeal Fighting Fund - all current legal costs for the Appeal have now been covered (around $300,000).
UPDATE: Feb 2006 Appeal due in May or June
19 August 2005 - Leave to Appeal granted
9 August 2005 - VCAT imposes injunction on pastors
22 June 2005: Catch the Fire Ministries - religious vilification penalty
In addition Judge Higgins ordered that the pastors have 30 days to give an undertaking that they will not say or do anything that has the same or similar effect in the future as the comments he found breached the Act and vilified Muslims. If they fail to do so, he is considering further orders and an injunction to order them to comply!
He made an order that documents and evidence are allowed to be used outside of VCAT.
4 May 2005: Penalty hearing - on proposed remedies
29 April 2005: CTFM hearing at the Supreme Court
21 April 2005
29 January 2005: Penalty hearing
VCAT Decision announced 17 December 2004:
Contact us if you would like a copy of the Updates sent out by email during the initial VCAT hearing.
To read Catch the Fire Ministries' response to the original complaint, click here.
Racial and Religious Tolerance Act: