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Australian Church calls for blasphemy abolition: CEN 2.20.09 February 22, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Free Speech.
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Blasphemy should be abolished as a crime under Australia’s federal and state penal codes, the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia has argued in a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

“We look for a society where religious discourse is conducted in safety and security, and people are free to disagree without danger or social exclusion or harm to person or property,” the church said in its submission in response to the AHRC’s paper, “Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st Century project.”

“These conditions will entail the freedom to engage in robust debate and disagreement about religious beliefs and practices,” it said.

Launched in September, the “Freedom of Religion” project seeks to set the terms of debate for church state relations in the coming decades. Conducted in partnership with Monash University, RMIT University and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, the project seeks to determine whether there is adequate protection against discrimination based on religion or belief, and how federal, state and territory governments are managing incitement to religious hatred.

The paper also looks at the extent of the influence of organized religion on government as well as the “commitment to interfaith understanding and inclusion in Australia at present.”

It also addresses the contentious issue of human sexuality, asking how diverse sexuality is perceived within the various faith communities, how faith communities can become inclusive of people of diverse sexualities, and whether religious organizations should be permitted to bar people from employment due to sexual orientation.

In its response, the church said it endorsed the proposed Religious Freedom Act making it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of religion in the area of employment, “provided there are appropriate exemptions.”

Religious tests should be permitted when it is a qualification for employment, the church said, urging the adoption of a legal exemption that allows a “distinction, exclusion or preference in connection with employment” for religious organizations, including schools, social service agencies, hospitals and other charitable institutions, when the religious qualification is “derived from the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion.”

The church also supported the “abolition of the common law offence of blasphemy and the repeal of any laws creating the offence of blasphemy.” Under Australia’s Federal Constitution blasphemy is not an offense at common law. However Section 118 of the Broadcasting & Television Act 1942 prohibits the broadcast of “matter which is blasphemous, indecent or obscene.”

Blasphemous libel is a criminal offense in several Australian states, though there have been no prosecutions in recent decades. While Queensland and Western Australia have no blasphemy laws, Australia’s other states and territories carry the offence on the statute books. In Victoria the last attempt to prosecute blasphemy as a common law offence occurred in 1919, but the Transport (Passenger Vehicles) Regulations 1994 forbids passengers on public transport from using “any blasphemous, indecent, insulting, offensive, profane, violent or threatening language or gesture to the annoyance or hindrance of any other person.”

A balance between civil liberties and religious rights need be found, the church said. “We value and want to keep the freedoms and rights Australians enjoy, which are delivered by Australian law, and have in turn been shaped and informed by Judeo-Christian thought,” the church saidl

“We recognise and affirm the cultural diversity that exists within Australia, and the need to respond thoughtfully to increasing religious diversity. But any policy initiatives arising from debate about freedom of religion and belief should not compromise these freedoms and rights,” the standing committee argued.

The closing date for submissions for the “Freedom of Religion” project is Feb 28.

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Comments

1. Lizzie - March 3, 2009

When you think of the Blasphemy now enacted in the UK it might be an idea for Australia to retain its laws.
Christianity is being insulted and abused by the media,BBC,and people like Jerry Springer with his disgusting Opera.
I am ashamed of the attitude of the British media towards Christianity. They never speak about Islam in this way as the individuals who abuse Christ are too afraid of having their throats cut.
Keep your Blaphemy Laws OZ-good thing,

2. UN takes aim at free speech, where does Australia stand? | OzSoapbox - March 3, 2009

[…] has recently come out and said it supports the decriminilisation of blasphemy in the country, George Conger writes; The church also supported the “abolition of the common law offence of blasphemy and the […]


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