The two Danny’s have won a reprieve following their application against the findings of Judge Higgins in the long running Religious Vilification case before VCAT. Hailed as a success by Catch the Fire Ministries and just about every other conservative Christian group around the world, this is not quite an exoneration–it is a call for a retrial, without any further evidence to be taken, but in the light of the rulings of the appeal. It is expected, however, that in that light, a new verdict–of “not guilty”–will be handed down.
I am still wading through the 80 pages or so of the appeal’s findings, but at the moment it seems to hinge upon the idea that the criticising and ridiculing of religious beliefs should be distinguished from the vilification of those who hold those religious beliefs. It also includes the fact that just because someone feels insulted by what someone else says about their religious beliefs doesn’t mean that Victoria’s Religious Vilification laws have been breached.
[I understand that Peter Feris wrote a piece on this for Crikey.com, but as I’m not a subscriber, so I couldn’t read it. Anyone out there in blog land with access to this article?]
In general, I welcome these new distinctions, just as I welcomed the amendments to the law made last year, although I agree with Mark Zirnsak of the Uniting Church, that we wouldn’t want anyone–especially Christians–seeing this as a “green light” for being nasty to people of other faiths. I also hope–although I don’t expect–that these findings would calm the fears of some Christian folk about the Victorian laws. It is obvious that the laws are working themselves out over time and that Christians acting in good faith–and in a spirit of charity–have nothing to fear. (Cf. The Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission’s Statement “Talking about Other Faiths: A Position Statement of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission”)
[Reader: I guess that puts paid to your thoughts about charging Richard Dawkins with religious vilification?
Schütz: It does, rather.]