UPDATE on the CATCH THE FIRE vs ICV Court Case - 30 DEC 2006
As you probably know by now two christian pastors based on Melbourne were found guilty of inciting hatred and severe ridicule against Muslims. Pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot of 'Catch the Fire' ministries became the first people to be convicted under Victorian Governments much maligned Racial and Religious Vilification Act in December 2004.
In the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT) Judge Michael Higgins stated that Mr Scot 'had made fun of Muslims' that was not done in the context of a serious discussion. Pastor Scot, the Judge claimed, called Muslims liars and demons and said the Koran promoted killing. The Judge stated that information "was presented in a way that was essentially hostile, demeaning and derogatory of all Muslim people, their god "Allah" and the prophet Mohammed." Pastor Scot vehemently denies that he ever made a statement that 'Muslims were demons.'
Judge Michael Higgins stated that Pastor Scot failed to differentiate between Islam throughout the world by focusing on "a literal version of the Koran and of Muslim practices that are not mainstream but more representative of a small group in the Gulf States".
The Judge also advised that an article published on Catch the Fire's website and a Newsletter were also found to contain remarks that incited hatred and ridicule of Muslims in Australia.
On 22 June 2005 Catch the Fire Ministries and pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot were ordered to make a public apology in newspapers and website, and to promise never again to repeat similar statements anywhere in Australia. Both Pastors have publicly refused to comply with the ruling. The estimated cost in placing these apology advertisements is over $65,000.
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) filed legal action against the pair after two Muslims, encouraged by the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission, deliberately attended the 2002 seminar with the sole aim of using the Racial and Religious Vilification Act to further their purposes.
Interestingly in July 2005, Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran made statements on national ABC television to the affect that Bin Laden was a "great man" and was not involved in the 7th July 2005 London bombings or the September 11 massacre in New York. Mr Waleed Aly from the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) maintained that the cleric had a right to express his opinion within the confines of the law, yet clearly Waleed Aly opeates on a different basis for the Christian Church.
Returning to the case, after the verdict Pastor Danny Nalliah told "The Age" Newspaper that "we may have lost the battle but the war was not over. The law has to be removed, there is no question".
The case has been ongoing for several years and has attracted international attention. South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia Governments to date have decided not to proceed with introducing similar legislation. The ex NSW Premier Mr Bob Carr recently explained in Parliament that such laws are counter-productive. He stated that "Religious vilification laws can undermine the very freedom they seek to protect - freedom of thought, conscience and belief." Well said Bob Carr. Please pray that the new NSW Premier Mr Morris Iemma will also maintain this stand.
The outcome has divided Christians including members of the Uniting church. Social Justice and International Mission Director of the Uniting Church Dr Mark Zirnsak has stated that "small Christian extremist groups are damaging the reputation and good name of the broader Christian community". This of course, is his narrow minded secular opinion and not indicative of the general feeling of the Uniting Church members or the general christian community across Australia.
Interesting to note, that in both Media Releases (dated 17 Dec 04 & Feb 05) by this Uniting Church Synod of Victoria & Tasmania organisation there was NOT ONE statement that confirmed the Synod's understanding that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is essential for salvation. Sadly this is pretty typical of the wishy washy statements coming out of the Uniting Church hierarchy both in Sydney and Melbourne and one reason why many Uniting church members have lost heart and deserted the Uniting Church for refreshing bible based churches.
When Islamic organisations in Australia move to ban Christian education for children in Australian Public Schools and /or remove the right to celebrate Christian Holy Days (Christmas and Easter) maybe then the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and other Christians who are overly supportive of Muslims may wake up to the "big picture." Don't think it can't happen.
Most evangelicals and a number of Australians have viewed the verdict as a slap in the face to truth and free speech, with the Presbyterian Church calling on the Victorian Government to rescind the anti-vilification legislation asap.
The Presbyterian moderator, the Rev Dr Allan Harman has stated that. "Religious freedom has been seriously jeapordised" and the "ability to critique another person's position is integral to a free and democratic society." Well said Allan.
ACTION BY CATCH THE FIRE MINISTRIES
In response to the ruling Catch the Fire Ministries and Pastor Danny Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot have established a Fighting Fund and urged the Australian Christian community to back their fight to preserve freedom of speech and an open and honest expression of religious beliefs. Interestingly even atheists have contacted Pastor Nalliah to offer their financial support for the campaign.
The Catch the Fire vs Islamic Council of Victoria landmark case of Racial and Religious Vilification unfortunately requires significant funds to meet the legal expenses needed to continue to fight for the right of Christians and Australians to enjoy the liberty they should rightly own in a democratic country.
The pastors are now appealing the Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) decision in the Supreme Court. A very expensive avenue.
Unfortunately in Victoria, the State Government continues to support this poorly created and executed law BUT Senator Russell Savage is now moving a Private Members Bill calling for a repeal of this ridiculous Law.
Melbourne based Moores Legal lawyers are the new legal team in place to appeal the decision and penalty handed down this month at VCAT. Mr Murray Baird, Senior Partner of Moores Legal has said "There's a balance between free speech and reasonable protection of people's sensibilities. In our view this application of the Act does not achieve this. It will lead to a general fear of speaking openly and plainly about religious matters. As the Act is still new, in our view it is appropriate to ask the Supreme Court to examine and review the way it is being applied."
Mr Baird continued by saying "The Judge in VCAT said that this legislation is not easy to interpret and apply. There is no previous case law in Victoria which assists a citizen to determine when the line has been crossed and, to allow this interpretation of the Act to stand unchallenged would be to have it regarded as the guide for interpretation of the limits of religious expression in Victoria and indeed Australia - as the Act and the Decision purport to cover conduct anywhere in Australia"
Pastors Danny and Daniel have stated, "It will require significant funds in order to take a stand at a critical turning point in Australia for religious freedom." They urge all interested parties to support the campaign both prayfully and financially".
UPDATE - SUPREME COURT RULING - 30 DEC 2006
PRAISE OUR GOD - The Victorian Court of Appeal has upheld the Catch the Fire Ministries Appeal meaning the case will be returned to VCAT Tribunal for another hearing, but Judge Michael Higgins has been precluded from hearing the case again. Interesting to note that the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) have been ordered to pay half the costs of the Catch the Fire Ministries - CTFM appeal. Good News
Pastor Danny Nalliah has stated despite the enormous stress the case has caused his family, that he is in a sense happy with the decision because the case will be kept alive in the public consciousness. Pastor Danny Nalliah has called on Premier Steve Bracks to repeal the bad law and to prove to the people of Victoria that he supports free speech and freedom of Religion.
ASK THE BIBLE'S COMMENTS ON THE CASE
We believe every Muslim has a basic right to worship their god and follow their religion peacefully in Australia. This is a basic right for every religious group in Australia. However we maintain that experts and non experts have a right to express their opinion about the Koran or any other religious book without fear of jail or fines. This is an elementary basic democratic right that is under threat by the Racial and Religious Vilification Act.
In response to the actions by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) we are very concerned that this is just the first step by them and Australian Islamic Organisations in general to silence Christians and to prevent the presentation of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to Muslims in Australia.
As you probably know in many Muslim countries across the world Christian missionaries are now banned, and in some cases they are bashed or jailed or murdered.
(1) In southern Thailand extremist Muslim groups are now beheading Buddist monks and killing school teachers. In fact 850 people have been murdered by these insurgents in the last 12 months. The violence is continuing on both sides and unfortunately the Thailand Government could be handling the situation more carefully. Refer ABC Foreign Correspondent Program shown on 20/08/2005.
(2) In Indonesia in the years 1965 to 1997 over 395 churches have been attacked by Muslims.
Both examples clearly illustrate that Muslims in these countries believe and practice the literal translation of the Koran in terms of the 6th pillar, that is Holy War, aka "Jihad." (see Surah 2: 163-164 and 9: 5, 29). Judge Michael Higgins in his judgement commented that this literal belief of the Koran was restricted to Muslims living in the Gulf states. The evidence clearly doesn't support his viewpoint.
We would like to ask Judge Michael Higgins what will he intends to do about Australians and TV / Films/ Videos, etc that use the words "Jesus Christ" as swear words or profanity. He stated that Mr Scot 'had made fun of Muslims.'
Is Michael Higgins just as keen to protect our Saviour and Lord from abuse, which is offensive to all Australian Christians, or is the new Victorian Racial and Religious Vilification Act only to protect Muslims NOT Christians. This is a fair question.
Are there extremist Muslim groups operating in Australia?. It is difficult to say, but it is possible. London residents tragically recently found out what a few young Muslims terrorists can do.
We consider the deaths of Australians, British and Americans in New York, Bali, Spain and London at the hands of Muslim terrorists brings far more anger and hatred against Australian Muslims than 2 unknown Christian pastors at a tiny little seminar. Instead of focusing on the two Christian pastors the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) should be looking at the big picture and working to stop DEATH and VIOLENCE by radical Muslims who mistakenly believe they go to paradise by killing innocent people, created in the image of God. Stop the cause.
We at ASKTHEBIBLE also question the motivations of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission and why a Victorian Government Agency is working closely with an Islamic Group (ICV). We believe Australia's Christian Heritage and freedoms are now under threat. We call on all Christians to be pro-active. Premier Steve Bracks' recent 2006 changes to the Victorian Racial and Religious Vilification Act have done nothing to water down a poorly developed and thoughtless Act. In fact, Bracks changes have strengthened the stupid Legislation so Court Cases in Victorian Courts are likely to increase in number and waste more public, Muslim and Christian Organisational funds. The Act does not help Muslims and Christians to treat each other with respect and yet understand and accept we have differences.
We fully agree with Pastor Danny Nalliah - CTFM that the Victorian Premier Steve Bracks should repeal his "bad law" immediately and thereby end this expensive and time consuming Legal process that this ridiculous Law causes. Either Premier Steve Bracks supports free speech and freedom of religion in Victoria OR He doesn't.
We urge all Muslims to live at peace with all Australians, even if they have suffered some bad experiences and poor treatment. We also urge all Muslims to re-evaluate the Bible as the true and only inspired word of God the Father and we call on them all to put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the True, Living and Almighty God. We earnestly believe that this is the one and only pathway to salvation, contentment and joy. We earnestly believe all other religions including the Muslim faith are pathways to Hell. The decision remains with each individual but we pray that the Holy Spirit will convict you of this fact. See God's inspired words below.
John 3:16 to 20 "For God so loved the World that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in him should not perish but receive eternal life. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ.
(19) and this is the judgement, that the light (Jesus Christ) has come into the world, and men loved darkness ( and other religions) rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
(20) For every one who does evil hates the light (Jesus Christ), and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed."
Information Source: Anglican Media and Catch the Fire Ministries CTFM websites and Southern Cross Magazine