Tuesday, 14th August, 2012

The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concern at the ACT Government’s intent in introducing religious vilification legislation in the Assembly.

ACL’s Managing Director Jim Wallace said religious vilification legislation was an overreaction to an isolated incident that would stifle religious freedom rather than enhance it.

“The experience of the ‘two Dannies’ case under Victorian religious vilification legislation shows that rather than protecting religious freedom, such laws have a detrimental effect on the ability of people to act in accordance with their conscience,” Mr Wallace said.

“The Victorian experience showed that religious vilification laws diminish social cohesion and lead to expensive and acrimonious legal processes.

“Religious vilification legislation also had a suppressing effect on free speech, with the threat of legal action and tribunal hearings causing people to step back from important public discussion,” he said.

“We hold very strong reservations for religious freedom and free speech under the proposed ACT legislation.”

Mr Wallace said that ACL supported the freedom of people of all faiths and none to express their views in the public square without the threat of legal action, which is necessary for the proper functioning of a democracy.

Mr Wallace said the government should at least wait until the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council had reviewed the Discrimination Act, including a thorough public consultation process, before moving on such a contentious policy issue.