Sydney (CNA) – The Supreme Court of Victoria in Australia upheld the appeal of two Australian pastors who could have faced jail time for publicly comparing Christianity with Islam.
The court ruled in favor of Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, who were previously found to have “vilified Islam” with their public comments by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In 2004, the tribunal ruled that the pastors were in violation of Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act. It deemed the pastors’ beliefs “offensive” and “unreasonable” interpretations of Christian and Islamic teachings. It also ordered the pastors to apologize for their sermon. The pastors could have faced jail time if they refused to comply.
The Supreme Court ruled that their comments were not incendiary, but rather thoughtful Christian reflections on Islam and on the dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The high court vacated the original ruling and ordered the case sent back to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for another hearing with a different judge.
“The pastors were victims of a short-sighted law that pretended to promote tolerance but in fact tolerated absolutely nothing,” said Becket Fund founder and president Kevin Hasson. “Hopefully this ruling will help the Australian courts realize they cannot and should not try to control religious discussion in their country.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty worked with a team of Australian lawyers to present arguments to the Supreme Court defending the pastors’ religious liberty rights under international law.
The Islamic Council of Victoria is expected to challenge the ruling.