Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Vilification Trial for Pastors

Written by Rev. H.A Bergsma
Two Christian pastors are facing a tribunal in Victoria State, Australia, accused of "vilifying Muslims" in a seminar on March 9, 2002, when they informed local Christians about Islam and the meaning of Jihad. The Islamic Council of Victoria charged that the seminar violated Victoria State's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. If convicted, the two pastors, Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, face substantial fines under this Act. On December 11, 2003, the Board of Imams, the Uniting Church of Australia, and the Catholic Church in Melbourne all sought the right to intervene in the case, supporting the Islamic Council and their accusations against the two pastors. In a positive development, on December 15, Judge Michael Higgins rejected the applications to intervene. Judge Higgins stated that, while the act provides for up to six months' jail, this penalty would not apply in this case. He noted that a jail sentence applies only to a section of the law referred to as "Serious Religious Vilification." These two men, however, are being tried under the section referred to as "Religious Vilification." Under this section, the judge could order apologies, written statements, compensation, or fines. Judge Higgins acknowledged that the parts of the seminar transcripts presented by the complainants could have been interpreted as vilification. However, the seminar went on to talk about the need to dialogue with Muslims, develop relationships and mix socially with them. "Is the document as a whole an incitement to hatred as set out in (the act)? If you stop at page 67 it's pretty easy to say yes, but when you go through the rest, then I think the first view you might adopt starts to wane somewhat," he said. The trial continues and will likely not conclude until February of 2004. (Gleaned from several articles from Voice of the Martyrs)

This trial may be far removed from our shores, but it could very well become a test case of which the implications will arrive here some day.

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