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Christian Pastors Found Guilty of Vilifying Islam ^ | 12/17/05 | Patrick Goodenough

Posted on 12/17/2004 3:27:05 AM PST by kattracks

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Christians in Australia are pondering the implications of an explosive ruling handed down Friday by a legal tribunal, which found that two Christian pastors had vilified Islam.

Immediate reactions ranged from an evangelical commentator's view that the decision spelled "the beginning of the end of freedom of speech in Australia" to that of a liberal church denomination which said it sent a welcome message to "Christian extremist groups."

One of the pastors at the center of the dispute said he was saddened by the outcome, but he predicted it would galvanize Christians and other Australians who cared about free speech.

Pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot were found to have breached a section of the state of Victoria's controversial hate law, which says a person must not incite "hatred against, serious contempt for or revulsion or severe ridicule of" another person or group on the basis of religious belief or activity.

The complaint arose from a seminar on Islam run for Christians by Nalliah's evangelical Catch the Fire Ministries in Melbourne in 2002.

Three Muslims attended on behalf of the Islamic Council of Victoria and subsequently submitted a complaint under the state's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, which had come into effect just two months earlier.

A lengthy legal process, weeks of public hearings before a tribunal set up under the law and months of delays finally reached a conclusion on Friday, when tribunal judge Michael Higgins handed down a summary of his judgment. A full 100-page report will be produced next week.

Higgins said the three respondents -- Catch the Fire, Nalliah and Scot -- had violated the section of the law covering hatred, contempt and revulsion.

The law provides for exemptions in cases where the offending action was taken "reasonably and in good faith ... for any genuine academic, artistic, religious or scientific purpose" or in the public interest.

But Higgins found that the exemptions did not apply in the case before him.

"I find that Pastor Scot's conduct was not engaged in reasonably and in good faith for any genuine religious purpose or any purpose that is in the public interest."

Scot, a Pakistan-born scholar of Islam, was the main speaker at the seminar. He and Nalliah argued throughout the case that they had merely informed Christians attending the seminar about Islam and its teachings, based on the religion's own texts.

The judge disagreed.

"Pastor Scot, throughout the seminar, made fun of Muslim beliefs and conduct," he said in the summary.

"It was done, not in the context of a serious discussion of Muslims' religious beliefs; it was presented in a way which is essentially hostile, demeaning and derogatory of all Muslim people, their god Allah, the prophet Mohammed and in general Muslim religious beliefs and practices."

Higgins referred to some of Scot's statements, including the view that the Koran "promotes violence, killing and looting"; that Muslims are liars; that Allah is not merciful and a thief's hand is cut off for stealing; and that Muslims intend to take over Australia and declare it an Islamic nation.

He said Scot "preached a literal translation of the Koran and of Muslims' religious practices which was not mainstream but was more representative of a small group in the Gulf states."

Higgins also said he had found Scot evasive and lacking in credibility.

Apart from the seminar, the judge also dealt with two other issues: a newsletter article written by Nalliah and an article posted on the Catch the Fire website shortly after 9/11.

In the newsletter article, Nalliah claimed that Muslim refugees were being granted visas to Australia while Christians who suffer persecution in Islamic nations were refused refugee visas. He also referred to the high birth rate among Muslims in Australia at a time the birth rate in general was dropping.

Higgins said Nalliah suggested that Muslims were "seeking to take over Australia."

"Viewed objectively and in their totality, these statements are likely to incite a feeling of hatred towards Muslims."

Regarding the article posted on the website 15 days after 9/11, Higgins said it suggested that Islam was "an inherently violent religion." The author, whose full name was not given, "implies that Muslims endorse the killing of people based upon their religion," the judge said.

Under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, the tribunal is empowered to order public apologies, the payment of compensation or other steps. Higgins will announce penalties in late January.

'Truth is no defense'

Speaking by phone from Melbourne after the judgment was delivered, Nalliah said the verdict had not referred at all to the issue of freedom of speech -- the grounds on which the pastors fought their case.

"I'm saddened because we've lived under [Islamic] shari'a law, and I thought those were the countries where you could not speak [freely]. And we come to Australia and make Australia our home, and we find ... freedom of speech is completely bound."

Sri Lanka-born Nalliah worked with the underground church in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, while Scot fled persecution in his native land in 1987 after being condemned to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

"It's very evident that all we have said is the truth, but that has not been taken into consideration," Nalliah said, noting that lawyers for the complainant had stressed to the judge throughout the case that "truth is no defense."

While one could vilify someone according to race, religion was clearly subjective, the pastor said.

"Religion makes claims of truth. Each religion says 'we are the right one.' How can you vilify?"

Nalliah also lamented that a judge "who possibly does not know head or tail" of either Christianity or Islam was giving a verdict in a case of this type.

A similar view came from Bill Muehlenberg, vice-president of the Australian Family Association, who attended Friday's hearing.

"How does a secular judge with no expertise in religion make such decisions when Islamic scholars themselves are divided on such crucial questions of theology, interpretation and exegesis?" he asked afterwards.

"Much of what the judge considered offensive was simply quotations from the Koran," he added. "To argue that quoting a religious book makes one guilty of vilification would put 98 percent of religious discussions out of bounds."

Muehlenberg called on Christians to protest, lobby and pray about the decision, which he said "marks the beginning of the end of freedom of speech in Australia and the official restriction of proclaiming the Christian gospel."


In sharp contrast to Muehlenberg's view, the state's Uniting Church welcomed the verdict.

"Today's ruling will send a clear message to extremist groups in Victoria that their activities are not welcome here," said the church's social justice and international mission head, Mark Zirnsak

"These groups now have been given a clear warning that they will not have an unfettered ability to promote hatred and hostility in the community."

Zirnsak also commended the state's Labor government for passing the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.

"In our view, the beliefs and actions of groups like Catch the Fire Ministries do not represent the broad view of Christian belief in this state, where respect, tolerance and acceptance are the hallmarks of daily religious life."

The Uniting Church is a unique Australian denomination established from an amalgamation of the Methodist, Congregational and some Presbyterian churches.

Last July, it became the first church in Australia to openly allow practicing homosexuals to become ministers. It has a strong social focus and opposed the war in Iraq.

'Wake up'

Nalliah said Friday that he, Scot and their advisors would study the tribunal's full judgment when it became available and would then decide on a future strategy.

"It seems bad, but ... when Christ died on the cross, everyone thought it was defeat. But time proved that he rose from the dead and brought victory. Time will prove that this is not the end of this case [either]."

He said he believed the whole episode was part of a broader divine plan.

"I think this will really stir the church up, to wake up and take a stand. And not just Christians -- every Aussie who loves freedom and freedom of speech is going to be affected by this decision."

See Earlier Story:
Australian Embassy Deals With US Concerns About Religious Vilification Case
(Oct. 29, 2003)

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

TOPICS: Australia/New Zealand; Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: christians; hatecrimes; hatespeech; islam; tolerance
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To: Sgt_Schultze

It is quite interesting that the secular multicultural fundamentalists are bringing back heresy law. And ironic, of course.

21 posted on 12/17/2004 5:14:10 AM PST by dob
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To: kattracks
"two Christian pastors had vilified Islam."

I think Islam is doing a fabulous job of vilifying itself.
22 posted on 12/17/2004 5:14:46 AM PST by Tread
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To: kattracks
Including the USA, just about everywhere in the Western civilized countries the leftists, atheists, commies, socialists, terrorist sympathizers, etal, etal, have discovered they can change a country's culture through the dictates of the courts rather than by the will of the voting populace.

This is why I'll be watching President Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court with great interest. To me, the appointments will be the strongest of indications of which way this country will go in the future.


23 posted on 12/17/2004 5:20:20 AM PST by MinuteGal
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To: xzins; AppyPappy

Coming soon to an apostate nation near you. REALLY near.


24 posted on 12/17/2004 5:21:06 AM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: BibChr

Yup. Merry Chris...ooops, sorry. Someone might be offended. Happy Ramadan.

25 posted on 12/17/2004 5:24:15 AM PST by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: thor76; Canticle_of_Deborah; Land of the Irish; ultima ratio; Maximilian; Viva Christo Rey; ...
....of things to come....

Enjoy the Celebration
of the Birth of the One True God,
Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus

Merry Christmas
2004 !!!

.....see you in the catacombs next year?

26 posted on 12/17/2004 5:24:59 AM PST by Robert Drobot (God, family, country. All else is meaningless.)
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To: naturalman1975
Concerning "upholding the law as written", the facts of the situation simply do not match the provisions of the law even if the lawmakers had intended it to do so.

Islam is pretty open about what it teaches, and the 4 schools of interpretation are not terribly different in any case. In fact, there are numerous Islamic websites where the complete outline of their theology is laid out like a Venn Diagram ~ a task virtually impossible with any other religion! Someone well versed in the "Book of Common Prayer" might well think citing some of the better known Islamic beliefs was simply casting ridicule on the whole thing.

Seems to me the judge set this whole thing up for a big tumble when he referred to "their God Allah", rather than just to "God". Now that doesn't mean he intended to do so, but it is instructive that he ended up thinking that way after having a parade of Moslem witnesses and complainants come before him.

I still think Australia needs to be put on the State Department's restricted travel list until they figure out whether or not they want to be a free society or one which recognizes Sharia Law, like the Islamofascist state to our North we call Canukistan.

27 posted on 12/17/2004 5:31:29 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: thor76; Canticle_of_Deborah; Land of the Irish; ultima ratio; Maximilian; Viva Christo Rey; ...
Also see : Christians Face 47 Years in Prison Because Philly Judge Calls Bible Verses
28 posted on 12/17/2004 5:34:18 AM PST by Robert Drobot (God, family, country. All else is meaningless.)
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To: kattracks

I would vilify Islam with a burst of six that would have the moderators ban me forever.

But, keep this in mind, the following was the sentiment of Omar M. Ahmad, the Chairman of the Board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, as told at an Islamic conference held in Freemont, California, in July of 1998.

“Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”

29 posted on 12/17/2004 5:34:30 AM PST by Beckwith (John, you said I was going to be the First Lady, as of now, you're on the couch . . .)
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To: BibChr

I am guilty.

I'm more distressed to see members of the anglosphere turning in the direction of thought and speech control. Australia, Canada, England .... they all appear to have "bosses" who tell them what they can think and say.

Render unto God the things that are God's -- TRUTH is God's.

30 posted on 12/17/2004 5:35:53 AM PST by xzins (Retired Army and Proud of It!)
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To: kattracks

"Much of what the judge considered offensive was simply quotations from the Koran," he added. "To argue that quoting a religious book makes one guilty of vilification would put 98 percent of religious discussions out of bounds."

If the truth hurts then outlaw truth. Brilliant.

31 posted on 12/17/2004 5:37:40 AM PST by JCBurton
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To: muawiyah

From what I have read of this law, the facts of this case do seem to match its provisions reasonably closely. If they didn't it might not be as moronic a law as it in fact is.

In my view, the Judge was on a hiding to nothing in referring to 'the God Allah'. If he hadn't made the distinction, he'd probably be being attacked by Christians at the moment for making a legal ruling that suggested that Allah and the God Christians believe in are the same God (which some Moslems and some Christians do say is the case, but which is certainly not something that is proper for a Judge to rule on.) His distinction in my view was simply an attempt to avoid that issue. Basically he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't in that situation.

As for your suggestion that Australia should be put on the US State Department's restricted travel list, that would be a great way to antagonise one of the few countries that has stood with America in recent years. Now maybe if this was an act of the Federal government I could understand wanting to do that - but this law is a product of one of the most left wing governments in the country in what is probably the most left wing state in the country. This is not an Australia wide issue - it's an issue created by a state government that would love to embarass the Federal government overseas.

Frankly, I don't think Steve Bracks is all that important even in Australian terms - and his misguided policies certainly don't seem to me to be anything for Americans to be getting their knickers in a twist about.

Advocate whatever you like - but frankly, I think some Americans are seriously overestimating how important this issue is. It's one minor court in one left wing state - and it is almost certain to be overturned when it reaches a higher court.

As I understand it, the Judge in this case hasn't even mentioned the Free Speech issue and that strongly suggests that he knows it's the real issue - and he's leaving it to the higher courts (which can set far wider precedents) to deal with.

32 posted on 12/17/2004 5:43:21 AM PST by naturalman1975 (Sure, give peace a chance - but si vis pacem, para bellum.)
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To: All

I am curious about something. I wondering how all of these people who are defending Islam will feel when Islam is THE majority religion of their regions and the Muslims show them no respect and give them no favor. IOW, the Muslims are using them to further their cause. When they reach their goal these people will be useless to them.

33 posted on 12/17/2004 5:47:36 AM PST by PleaseNoMore
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To: Fred Nerks
It's funny that the first two people arrested under the new law were Christians talking about Islam.If the police can't find any Muslims out there breaking this law they must be ignoring it.Islam calls for violence against non Muslims and no law should ever be created that stops that from being exposed.A religion like Islam suppresses and or kills those who would scrutinize it for the simple reason that it can't hold up under the magnifying glass.A lie can remain out in the open only until someone exposes it for the lie it is.
34 posted on 12/17/2004 5:53:06 AM PST by rdcorso (Did I mention I was in Vietnam where I lost my backbone? Spineless John)
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To: AppyPappy; Lurking Libertarian

Right. If I were a Smart Guy, I'd write an molten, acid essay on our Constitutional Right Not To Be Offended. You've read that one, right? It's plainly on open display -- in the Penumbra to the Constitution.


35 posted on 12/17/2004 5:55:02 AM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: naturalman1975
Sounds like I can "advocate" whatever I like, but only around here.

Still, as you note, free speech is the issue, as well as a little knowledge of history. This particular judge, if he and his gumbahs running Victoria state keep it up will be bowing to Mecca 5 times a day, and feasting on stew made up out of those wild camels you fellows keep.

36 posted on 12/17/2004 5:56:47 AM PST by muawiyah
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To: rdcorso

I don't think anyone was arrested - I can't swear to that, but the case has been generally handled as a civil case rather than a criminal one (even though criminal penalties can be imposed under these laws - the Judge has pretty much ruled them out in this case).

Police are not looking for people breaking these laws. Rather what has happened is that an Islamic group has chosen to bring a case under them.

I'm sure somebody could make a case against certain Moslems under this law, but so far nobody seems to have chosen to do so.

But there's nothing 'funny' going on. It's simply a matter that somebody really has to make a complaint for this law to apply.

37 posted on 12/17/2004 5:57:27 AM PST by naturalman1975 (Sure, give peace a chance - but si vis pacem, para bellum.)
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f**king terrorists

38 posted on 12/17/2004 6:00:37 AM PST by b2stealth
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To: muawiyah

Like I say, I don't think it's fair to blame the Judge. He has a job to do and he's not at a level where he can really interpret laws outside the narrow statutes. In Australia we tend not to like low level judges changing what the law is - that's a function for the various Parliaments and in rarer cases where there are conflicts for the state Supreme Courts and the High Court of Australia.

But as for the actual Victorian government - while I don't think they are *all* bad, most of them are pretty clueless and driven by a fairly hard left ideology that hasn't yet worked out where the real threats are. The biggest issue in Victorian politics really seems to be whether a particular road should be a freeway or a tollway - they are not interested in any really serious issues that I can see.

39 posted on 12/17/2004 6:02:12 AM PST by naturalman1975 (Sure, give peace a chance - but si vis pacem, para bellum.)
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To: naturalman1975
Interesting how the AU system of depriving trial courts of authority over constitutional or common law issues serves to empower them to do so!

Proves you can't win with these judges.

Intriguingly, that's what the Moslems use to peddle Sharia Law ~ a promise that you won't have to deal with the Trial Court judges anymore.

Guess that makes it attractive to some.

40 posted on 12/17/2004 6:14:15 AM PST by muawiyah
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