A Christian pastor found guilty of vilifying muslims says he is prepared to go to jail in protest over Victoria’s racial tolerance laws.
Two pastors involved with the Catch the Fire Ministries were last year found to have vilified Muslims at a Christian conference, and on a website, by suggesting the Koran promotes violence and terrorism.
It has ordered the pastors to publish a statement acknowledging their legal breach and has requested an undertaking the comments would not be repeated.
Outside the tribunal Pastor Daniel Nalliah said the legislation is flawed.
“I will do everything I can, even if I have to go to prison, to make sure the vilification laws, the religious part of the vilification laws, be removed from the state of Victoria,” Pastor Nalliah said.
“Right from the beginning we have stated we will not apologise, we will go to prison for standing for the truth.”
However the Islamic Council of Victoria has welcomed the ruling.
Waleed Aly from the council says the three-year legal battle was justified.
“You’ve got to imagine that it’s post September 11 Australia,” Mr Aly said.
“There’s a lot of angst towards the Muslim community in the wider Australian community.
“These sort of things are said, which if you speak to the Muslims who are concerned themselves, they were fearful. I mean this was a serious thing.”
But the Victorian Government has defended its religious tolerance laws.
The Victorian Opposition believes the laws are dividing the community, but acting Premier John Thwaites says the legislation is appropriate.
“We don’t want to see people incited to hatred and so for that purpose I think it is sending the right message,” he said.
The case is now being reviewed by the Victorian Supreme Court.
Free speech ‘in danger’
The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney says any attempt to introduce a religious vilification law in New South Wales could endanger free speech.
The Independent MP Peter Breen says he will try to convince the Premier to support his private member’s bill to outlaw religious vilification, claiming existing laws do not provide protection to Muslims.
But the Premier Bob Carr yesterday branded the laws unnecessary and said they could be abused.
Bishop Robert Forsyth says people should be allowed to conduct rigorous religious discourse.
“But I don’t want the law to enforce it because what will happen is what you are seeing in Victoria, is a person’s deeply held conviction – sincerely held – will find themselves up before the courts for what is no more than just strong speech,” he said.
“And the effect will be to cower and prevent people from criticising us Christians, for example, or others.
“And I don’t think the law should do that.