The Australian Christian Lobby today expressed disappointment with the decision by the High Court to uphold criminal convictions against Kathy Clubb and Graham Preston under exclusion zone laws.

“This is disappointing for all Australians who believe in freedom of speech,” said ACL managing director, Martyn Iles. 

“The decision means that a simple act of communication – handing a piece of paper to someone – is met with an extreme penalty. A criminal conviction is an outrageous punishment for such a simple and harmless act. 

“This sets a very low bar when it comes to limiting the freedom to communicate on political matters. 

“Governments across the country now know that it is very easy to pass laws which are burdensome for basic freedoms like speech, political communication, and religion. 

“The fragile to non-existent protection for basic democratic freedoms in Australian law has once again been exposed. 

“We are calling on the government to do more than its current proposal to have the ALRC review religious exemptions in discrimination laws. The need is for a clear and comprehensive set of protections for free speech and freedom of religion in Commonwealth legislation.” 

Mr Iles also said it was worth considering the practical impact of the case. 

“To be clear, Kathy’s work over a number of years has been to help women. By making offers of help, she has saved the lives of over 300 babies and supported their mothers who are often in difficult circumstances. Her work is heroic and commendable, and the fact she is now a criminal is a tragedy. 

“When the law shuts down a ministry like this, it is not working.” 

The Australian Christian Lobby will continue to campaign for protections for religious freedom to ensure innocent people like Kathy Clubb are not targeted by unfair legislation.