29. Religion, the Law and Freedom of Speech
During 2004 a law in our State of Victoria caused much concern in the Christian community. Those Christians who have not heard of the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and/or have not recognized its potential to impair the free spreading of the Gospel, ought to wake up from their slumber. Be assured, this is not a local issue, which only concerns Christians in Victoria.
Using this new, confusing law the Muslim Council of Australia was successful in prosecuting two Christian Pastors in a landmark decision. After a complaint by the Muslim Council they were the first to be charged under the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act for vilifying Muslims during one of their regular seminars on the Islam Faith.
As I understand, if they were to ignore the ruling by the courts, they are facing a jail term. Yes, a jail term in Australia for teaching about Islam in the light of Christianity. In a far-away Third-World country, where every year thousands are attacked physically, verbally or psychologically for simply confessing to belong to Christ, this is sadly the current state of affairs.
The vast majority of the Australian population calls themselves Christian. Our entire system of Government is based on Judeo-Christian ethics. Do we want this to continue? Church - the alarm bells are ringing. Itís time that you, who claim to be followers of Christ, heed the wake-up call! Donít keep pressing the snooze button for some extra slumber. Our faith is in danger of being choked by anti-Christian forces. The powers of darkness are showing their true colours.
Thanks be to God Ė where sin abounds grace much more abounds.
Just watch the News on television every night. It is plain to see that a war is raging Ė Good against evil. Evil is a master of deceit, appearing as a peacemaker, when the real intention is war; pleading for tolerance, when the true aim is brain-washing and domination of innocent minds.
How we need to stay close to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the only true God, who gives us strength and courage to expose and destroy the works of the evil one. Thank God this is happening before our eyes.
Few people have heard of the two preachers, Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah. I cannot recall once having heard their names mentioned on TV, perhaps on radio once or twice? On the other hand, ask anybody in Australia, if they know David Hicks? His name has been constantly (to a lesser extent as 2005 rolled on) in the newspaper and on TV etc. after his arrest as a suspected trainee-terrorist with Al-Quaida in Afghanistan. Entire church groups are passionately supporting this manís campaign to draw attention to his case and plead for his release to Australia from Guantanamo Bay.
There is nothing wrong with seeking justice. But if a church adds the defence of a suspected trainee terrorist on their busy agenda, does it not distract from the churchís true mission, the spreading of the Gospel? But then Ė the task of defending a suspected terrorist is easier than proclaiming in a credible way that someone rose from the dead and now wants to take over our whole being in worship of HIM. The defending a suspect-terrorist makes a church certainly more popular amongst the general population. The media loves it.
What does this sign mean? You expect to read this on a map at a towns tourist information centre, but as advertisement? I asked Isobel; she couldnít tell me, but does not worry about it like I do.This morning I did the polite thing and knocked on the bathroom door, before entering. Isobelís humour not only delivered a funny response, but one that made me think deeply. She called out: ďCome in, if itís you!Ē
It was me - and I entered.
In early March 03 Melbourne journalist Terry Lane, who did not claim any Christian interest, came out strongly in defence of the two accused Pastors. He published an article in Melbourneís Sunday age Newspaper on 2/1/05, speaking out in favour of free speech by any Religious group. Freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of a free society, a treasured privilege for those fortunate enough to enjoy it.
Of course, one must be respectful and sensitive in presenting oneís thoughts. By above statement, that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the only true God, I probably have upset many, who believe their God is the only one. As a free-speaker I would not be upset, if anyone claimed that they worshipped their letterbox as their only true God. I certainly would not call for a law to prohibit this person believing such obvious nonsense. You canít legislate against stupidity.
By raising strong opposition to Christ, or prohibiting family members to follow the Christian faith, are His opponents not admitting that HE is a real force to be reckoned with? Why oppose something passionately, which you regard as false and useless?
Encouraged by the Melbourne journalistís support of this cause, I did something I had not done before Ė I sent a message to the British Prime Minister, because I had heard that a similar law as the troublesome one in Victoria was being considered by the British House of Commons.Thanks to Google I located a website, which included a feedback-form to the British PMís office. When I read that he receives no fewer than one million (repeat 1 000 000) letters every year I almost abandoned the idea. But then - I would only be sure of one thing Ė that he would never receive my message. I went ahead and emailed the BBC, London and pasted a copy of the following email into the PMís feedback form.
Email to the BBC, London Ė 2/2/05 Ė edited for brevity.
I try to keep my comments brief. My friend wrote in an email that your Parliament is considering a law, similar to one existing in our state of Victoria that you are not allowed to 'vilify' another religion.
Two Evangelical Pastors in Melbourne held a Seminar on Islam. Some Muslims attendend, possibly for the purpose of finding something to vilify, and indeed they did so: Here is an extract of the email from my friend, who is off to London with one of the accused, to alert UK lawmakers on this issue.
Melbourne journalist and radio presenter Terry Lane - an atheist - listened to an audiotape of the seminar to find out for himself what Pastor Scot actually said. Daniel had explained how Islam's holy books the Quran and the Hadith came to be written; what these books teach about jihad, women and other matters; and how Christians should share their faith with Muslims by showing love in practical ways such as hospitality.
Terry Lane concluded that the Higgins judgement (see www.vcat.vic.gov.au) was "riddled with errors"; its "pomposity was breathtaking"; and it was a "depressing affair for anyone who cares about the fundamental freedom to say what we are thinking without fear of prosecution". (Sunday Age, Melbourne, 2/1/05).
However despite its many errors, the judgment cannot readily be appealed because the wording of the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act stacks the odds so heavily in favour of the complainant and against the respondent. (End quote).
If politicians in the West, who preach tolerance towards Muslims, can't see that behind a lot of well-meaning ideas and laws, is an underlying push of Islam into the West, it's time to wake up! I will go as far as saying - it is a push not for peace and love, which Christ (one of Islam's prophets) preached, but one of mind control.
When an atheist is taking up the cause of Christians without being one - it's time to wake up Great Britain (and Australia and Europe and...). All we want is to spread our message of love, peace and hope for an eternal future, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Dieter R. Fischer
PS A copy of this email (hopefully) will reach the British PM's office.
(The latest information I have is the proposed law, which could have had a crippling effect on the preaching of the Gospel in Great Britain, was rejected by the British Parliament).
The Scott/Nalliah case is rather complex. It is the first one, where this confusing Victorian law had been applied and could set a dangerous precedent, if it is allowed to stand. To quote from the email my friend sent me:
ďAt stake is the freedom to speak openly about other religions and our own - to proclaim the words that Jesus said in John 14:6 - "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Some people are angered by this exclusive claim. Pakistani professors considered it so offensive, and implicitly insulting to the prophet Mohammed, that they had Daniel Scot charged with blasphemy in 1986 so that he had to flee for his life.
On the surface it is understandable that other religions get upset about this statement of Jesus. On its own it can be viewed as very arrogant, except Christ performed mighty miracles, confirming that God lives on earth through Him. Letís use a modern phrase: He didnít just talk the talk - He walked the walk.
Our whole existence and confidence as Christians depends on the truth of Jesusí claim that He is the Son of God, the only way to the Father. To deny this for the sake of appeasing other Gods is to betray our Saviour and to nail Him to the cross all over again. Let me calm the anger of those who hate Jesusí claim of exclusive deity with a hypothesis:
If I was to claim that nobody in Adelaide can get their driverís licence, except through me, what would be the reaction of the hundreds of fellow driving instructors in Adelaide? They would regard me as arrogant, stupid and wipe me off as a lunatic. Full stop. My claim has no basis. No driving instructor would get upset about my claim. So why the hostility towards Jesus?
The very fact that people get so passionately angry about Jesus and HIS claims, demonstrates that there must be truth somewhere. Any law to stop Christians from believing and proclaiming that their Lord is Ďthe Lord of allí will cause religious arguments.
Therefore, the Religious Tolerance Act will do exactly the opposite to what it is meant to do Ė it will cause strife and arguments. Already there have been reports about Christians attending services of other faiths and taking notes. How ludicrous! It looks as if one sector of society will profit from this law Ė lawyers.
On Feb. 25th 05 I emailed the Melbourne Age and sent a copy to the Premier of Victoria:
Subject: Freedom of Speech and Religion
From the information I have about a law applying in Victoria - on Religion vilification - Dec 17th 2004 must go down as one of the darkest days in Victoria's legal history.
A man, who earned a living teaching about Islam, was being found breaking the law, despite having urged love and hospitality towards Muslims. Clearly Judge Higgins has not understood the case and brought down a very bad judgement.
You cannot make a law to control a person's thinking or indeed legislate the attitude I must display towards another group of people. Your law will not bring harmony amongst different beliefs, it will promote religious hatred.
I have been a strong supporter to including religion in the political arena. But this is definitely not how I had envisaged it to be dealt with.
I urge the Victorian Government to repeal this ill-conceived law, exonerate the Pastors convicted and let everyone believe what they want to believe and express it freely.
Yours sincerely,Dieter R. Fischer
The prosecution of the two Pastors conducting Seminars on Islam resulted in another negative. The case not only confused the Church Community, it also frightened off those, who otherwise would have engaged the two experts on Islam to hold Seminars. The two men, who faced a huge legal bill, also lost their livelihood.
If this bad law were to apply in this State (thank God it did not proceed last year, when it was debated here) our Pastor could initiate court action against a church nearby. Their display board outside recently read: Why your church does not tell you the truth!
Which Pastor likes to be told that he is not preaching the truth every Sunday? Isnít this exactly what this sign implies? Can you imagine a judge trying to settle a dispute, if the statement ďWhy your church does not tell you the truthĒ is religious vilification or not? It would open a can of worms.
(The church concerned does actually believe, unless you belong to them, you are not a real Christian. I donít feel anger about their belief, only sadness and pity).
Let me quote Pastor Daniel Scotís own words, used during a speech he gave recently:
"Having fled for my life because of my Christian faith, I know how precious freedom of speech and religious liberty is. It is too precious to throw away in a misguided attempt to protect religion. An 'incitement to religious hatred' offence will damage free speech and stir up religious groups to bring litigation against each other.Ē
The latest case, where above law is causing a huge stir, I came across on the Internet.
Religious vilification is hurting outreach again in Australia
April 25th, 2005
Australia (MNN/RW) -- "The latest complaint of 'religious vilification' in Victoria will send shock waves throughout the entire Christian community" said P. the CEO of Salt Shakers, a Christian Ethics Group.
"It is outrageous that a pedophile prison inmate can call for ALPHA courses to be closed down in Victoria under Victoria's Racial & Religious Tolerance Act," PS said. "Alpha Courses are one of the main evangelistic programs, used by most Christian denominations, across Australia."
A directions hearing was held last week before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The complaint, made by R. F., is in relation to an Alpha course run by the Salvation Army in Ararat jail. F. is a self confessed witch and is currently in Ararat prison, having been convicted of sexual abuse against two teenage girls in 1998. He was jailed for 10 years.
The email goes on to detail the demands made by witch R. F. (I will not print the full name. The person does not deserve publicity). If these were met, it would be necessary to changing entire passages of the bible, because the Alpha course is strictly bible based. The bible warns of people like F. He does have a valid reason to be frightened. But not of retribution by Christian people, but one day will face Godís wrath. HE will deal with all those who deliberately challenge HIS authority and mock HIS ways of love and peace.
The Victorian Labor Government, who obviously canít see or does not want to see the evil intentions of this man, should act immediately or not be in power. I hope voters in Victoria will remember this at their next state election.
(In all fairness Ė my understanding is that the Equal Opportunity Commission in Victoria did reject this evil manís initial approach. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal is the one taking this convicted criminalís demands seriously and heard the case. Isn't it typical government - one Department tells you one thing - another something else?
Witch F. went as far as calling for all Alpha Courses to be banned in prisons, until his case is resolved. My blood was boiling reading about this madness. The morning I first heard about this I did a little research on-line to learn about the man and his thoughts. Reading a few paragraphs on his website, confirmed his anti-Christian intentions. As far back as 1998 he was calling to himself disciples, who love darkness etc.
Straight away I composed an email and sent it to the Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, plus copies to all his Government Ministers and Liberal Party (Opposition) Members of Parliament:
Subject: Victoria's Racial & Religious Tolerance Madness
Dear Mr. Bracks,
Isn't it time to start scratching your head, looking at the madness that is prevailing in the State of Victoria (the Place to be - be what? Persecuted for being a Christian?).
A convicted rapist, who calls himself a witch, who is recruiting disciples for his kingdom of darkness, is getting a hearing to shut down the Prison's Alpha Course, a Christian program, which has brought many back to the Christian faith.
Please Sir, think again and instigate procedures to repeal this anti-Christian law. It has caused enough division and strife in the Scot/Nalliah case.
The latest USA-Newsletter by "The voice of the Martyrs" (an organisation exposing Christian persecution in countries like Eretria, North Korea etc) includes Australia for the first time - thanks to your State's Religious Vilification laws.
God is not mocked - neither you nor any other Government anywhere will stand in the way of God's plan for this earth. Whatever mankind sows, they will also reap.
If you are wise, you will be heeding God's Word.
Dieter R. Fischer
PS Lawyers love your law. It's a gold mine for them. How about making a genuine effort to eliminate organised crime instead?
You may hear some more on the case of the witch F. But not in the mainstream media. Publicity about the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act has been very scarce.
I wonder why?