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Hate Speech Laws, Islamic Blasphemy Strictures, and Freedom of Speech: The Case of Australia
September 15, 2009, 12:00 - 2:00 PM - Hudson Institute, Washington , D.C. Headquarters
The Center for Religious Freedom held a discussion with The Rev. Dr. Mark Durie
In December 2004, pastors Daniel Scot and Daniel Nalliah of the evangelical group Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM) were found guilty by an Australian judge of religious vilification for criticizing Islam in the course of a religious seminar and were ordered to publicly disavow their beliefs. Four and a half years after the lawsuit was brought, the pastors ultimately prevailed in the courts. Pastor Scot, who had grown up in Pakistan and fled the country after being accused there of the capital crime of blasphemy, remarked that religious vilification statutes like that under which he had been convicted in Australia were "blasphemy laws in disguise" and "sharia by stealth."
Today, similar charges of incitement to religious hatred and religious defamation are being used to punish religiously held beliefs in many countries, including in the West. Dr. Durie will discuss the broader legal and religious freedom implications of the Catch the Fire case, the proliferation of efforts to penalize critical speech about Islam, and the ability of secular courts to rule on theological issues. He will contrast this case with similar ones in Europe and assess the ramifications of the Catch the Fire case for public discussions of Islam and terrorism in Australia.
This lecture was the first in the Center for Religious Freedom's Fall series on "Lifting the Theocratic Iron Curtain: Examining the Application of Muslim Blasphemy and Apostasy Rules in the Contemporary World."