Campaign: To remove Victoria's religious vilification law
Many groups and individuals are concerned about the religious vilification law in Victoria. The cases that have been brought so far in Victoria show that the law has NOT brought harmony to the State - in fact it encourages DISHARMONY.
Truth is not a defence, motive is irrelevant and one has to 'establish' that an exception applies!
1. A petition was organised, calling on the Victorian government to remove religious vilification laws... Over 28,000 signatures were collected - and presented to the Parliament at a rally on the steps of Parliament organised by the Coalition for Free Speech in 2006.
2. Further action is then required!
3. Articles explaining why vilification laws are undesirable - scroll down...
For information on the Catch the Fire Ministries case, click here.
For more information on the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, click here.
29 April 2006 - Bracks Government plans amendments to the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act
BUT the Government is only proposing MINOR amendments - and these make the ACT WORSE - not better!
The Premier said last September at a faith leaders meeting that he was considering "minor amendments" to the Act. (Click here.)
He told those present he would consider amendments they might propose - Subsequently a Statement of Concern was signed by 19 church leaders calling for the removal of all the civil provisions concerning 'religion' (leaving only the 'criminal' section).
They proposed detailed amendments.
The Premier's 'amendment Bill' does NOT address the concerns expressed by the church leaders.
At the beginning of April, Steve Bracks announced he was putting the amendment Bill into Parliament - he did this the following day.
Click for the following:
1. The Bill - Equal Opportunity and Tolerance Legislation (Amendment) Bill.
2. Second reading speech by Steve Bracks
3. Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill.
4. Premier's media release - 4 April 2006 .
These amendments were debated and voted on in May 2006.
1. Give more power to the EOC to require people to attend or provide documents when the EOC is deciding to accept or 'decline' the complaint. A $2000 fine has been added for this new requirement.
2. If the EOC 'declines to entertain' the complaint, currently the complainant can still take the case to VCAT. The amendment (as suggested by Justice Morris when he dismissed the complaint by witch Robin Fletcher against the Alpha course) is that if the person takes the complaint on to VCAT when it was 'declined' by the EOC, then VCAT will consider the case first by looking at the 'papers' to decide if it should proceed.
3. An amendment has been made to the 'Exception' in Section 11. This is the one where there is an exception for a 'genuine religious purpose' (and other reasons such as academic). BUT is has to be done 'reasonably' and 'in good faith'.
The amendment is to add at the end of Section 11
"(2)For the purpose of sub-section (1)(b)(i), a religious purpose includes, but is not limited to, conveying or teaching a religion or proselytising.".
Because this tries to specify what a religious purpose is, then the notion of criticising another religion is even more unclear. The religious purpose is even narrower!
Salt Shakers remains committed to the repeal of all the religious sections of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
We oppose the proposed amendments.
WE encourage people to contact their MPs in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council to express their concern about the proposed amendments and to ask their MPs to ask for the repeal of all the religious sections of the RRTA.
Click here for MP details.
24 November 2005 - Presbyterian Church proposes amendments for the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act
BUT Government is clearly NOT willing to consider major amendments...
At a meeting of 'faith leaders' at the end of September, Premier Steve Bracks promised to consider amendments to the R & RTA - and to consult the community on possible amendments.
The Presbyterian Church, and moderator Professor Alan Harman, prepared amendments that would have (if accepted) removed the civil provisions of the Act and limited the Act to threatening physical harm.
A number of meetings are currently being held by the government with 'faith leaders'. At the meeting attended by the PCV on 22 November, the government officers suggested amending the law "requiring VCAT to determine on the papers offered in a complaint whether there is a case to answer before a case could proceed to VCAT" (as proposed by Justice Morris.)
However the government also proposed making the law MUCH MORE ONEROUS in enforcing VCAT rulings - rather than removing the unacceptable provisions of the Act.
David Palmer of the PCV Church and Nation Committee, prepared a report of the meeting they had with the government.
Salt Shakers remains committed to a full repeal of the religious sections of the Act.
NEW: Many church leaders have expressed concern about the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. However one group supporting the Act is the Uniting Church's Justice and International Mission Unit, led by Dr Mark Zirnsak. This group applied to intervene in the Catch the Fire case to support the Islamic Council of Victoria. Not all Uniting Church people support his view.
Mark has just posted an article titled "Religious Tolerance will ensure community safety".
Our response to "Religious Tolerance will ensure community safety.
Click here to read Mark Zirnsak's article.
Comments can be posted online - you need to register first.
News - March - April
The Victorian Heads of Churches have been discussing Victoria's religious vilification laws. In an article in The Age (30 March), Barney Zwartz says "All agree it is unsatisfactory, but they differ on what needs changing."
Click here for the article "Hatred law needs overhaul - churches".
See the ACTION sheet on contacting the head of your denomination to ask them to support the removal of the religious vilification laws.
The purpose of the Petition is to demonstrate to the Victorian Government the groundswell of opposition to the 'religious' sections of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.
1. Petition document
The Petition asks that the Government remove references to religious vilification in the Act to allow for unencumbered discussion and freedom of speech regarding religion and theology.
* Petition form available here
* Please print and distribute and collect signatures.
* Signatures must be on the formal petition sheet , not on blank sheets of paper.
* ONLY VICTORIAN residents can sign the petition.
* There is no age restriction.
* All petition sheets need to be returned to PO Box 6049, Wantirna, Vic 3152 by 15 April 2005.
2. Covering Letter
This sheet explains the purpose of the petition.
3. Declaration of Support
If you are an organisation, church or individual who would like to join our growing list of campaign supporters, please email, fax or post the Declaration of Support form to us.
This can be used by organisations and individuals in Victoria AND outside Victoria.
2. Further Action required
It is NOT enough just to sign the petition.
Please contact your Victorian Members of Parliament - every Victorian has three State government representatives -
one lower House (Legislative Assembly) and two Upper House (Legislative Council).
Either VISIT them or WRITE to them.
To find out who your representatives are phone the electoral commission on 13 23 26 or use the web. Click here, then enter your address to find your three Members.
ALSO write to the leaders of the parties: Steve Bracks (ALP); Robert Doyle (Liberal); Peter Ryan (Nationals).
Click here for contact details or send your letter to Parliament House, Melbourne, Victoria, 3002.
See the ACTION sheet below for all the information - print out and distribute this to EVERYONE who signs the petition!
The Agenda Behind Religious Vilification Legislation
By Professor Augusto Zimmermann
The article analyses Victoria's R and R T Act, including some of the cases brought so far along with the reasons for its implementation.
The Problem with Vilification Laws
by Bill Muehlenberg.
Ten reasons, written from a secular perspective, as to why religious vilification laws are undesirable.
Problems with Religious Support for Vilification Laws
by Bill Muehlenberg
Ten common arguments that are used to justify vilification laws. Bill responds to each of these. The ten are: 'The example of Jesus'; 'How we preach the gospel'; 'Christians should not vilify'; 'We must respect other beliefs'; 'The Sermon on the Mount'; 'Just say 'sorry''; 'Persecution is to be expected'; 'They got what they deserved'; 'Tolerance is a Christian virtue' and 'Unity and harmony must come first'.
Do We Really Need Religious Vilification Laws?
Steve Edwards, Centre for Independent Studies 'Policy' magazine, Autumn 2005.
Religious vilification laws are diminishing freedom of speech.
The article begins: "In chapter two of his famous essay, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill began: "The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defence would be necessary of the 'liberty of the press' as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government." Sadly, almost 150 years after Mill's essay was published, the 'liberty of the press' is as precarious as ever, as governments impose, through vilification laws, new restrictions on what can be said...."
Steve analyses religious vilification laws, including Victoria and the Catch the Fire Ministries case, and concludes "On balance, religious vilification legislation is an ill-conceived idea that ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history at the earliest opportunity".