For Release: Sunday August 19, 2012

The ACT's proposed religious vilification laws should be put on hold until consultation was held with religious communities, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said it was extremely disappointing that such controversial laws were being rushed into the Assembly this week when there had been no consultation at all with Canberra's Christian constituency.

Similar laws in Victoria were extremely controversial and led to protracted and expensive legal action which proved counterproductive to social cohesion, Mr Wallace said.

"These same laws were deemed completely unnecessary by the former New South Wales Labor Government which rejected them out of hand.

“While no right thinking person supports vilification of anyone, creating a big legal stick to wield if groups felt vilified would end up suppressing free speech,” Mr Wallace said.

"In a society such as ours which determines its values through the contest of ideas, there needs to be the freedom to engage in robust debate without fear of a legal process being initiated by someone who feels offended.

"The ACT, like the rest of Australia, has defamation laws and these should apply when free speech crosses the line and causes injury."

Mr Wallace said it was wrong that offensive posters had been circulated targeting Canberra's Muslim community but vilification laws were not the way to address this.