Home' Policy Magazine : Policy Vol 31 - No 1 Contents 34 Policy • Vol. 31 No. 1 • Autumn 2015
nature of the true god, the origins of the universe,
the path to enlightenment and how to live a good life
and so on. These sorts of claims are not mirrored in
17 That being so, one would assume
that the laws of a democratic society “should be less
ready to protect people from vilification based on
the voluntary life choices of its citizens compared to
an unchangeable attribute of their birth.”
In an environment where radicalised Australians have
not only expressed sympathy with Islamic terrorists
but also become terrorists themselves, religious
vilification laws have the deleterious effect of making
citizens unprepared to criticise or even give warnings
about the nature of particular religious beliefs,
however well-based these concerns might be. This
is the singular tragedy of “multicultural societies”
which engender postmodernist legislation that
reduces free speech on some of the most fundamental
issues of public morality. Of course, there is no
apparent reason why religious speech motivated
by political concerns should not be characterised
simultaneously as political communication for the
purpose of receiving constitutional protection—
as a basic right of the citizen derived from their
freedom of political communication implied in the
1 Jeremy Waldron, Liberal Rights: Collected Papers 1981-1991
(Cambridge/UK: Cambridge, 1993) 98.
2 James Spigelman, “Free Speech Tripped Up by Offensive
line.” The Australian, 11 December 2012.
3 Steve Edwards, “Do We Really Need Religious Vilification
Laws?” Policy 21:1 (2005) 30–32.
4 Fletcher v Salvation Army Australia  VCAT 1523.
5 The Age, 16 March 2001. Quoted in Robert Forsyth,
“Dangerous Protections: How Some Ways of Protecting
the Freedom of Religion May Actually Diminish Religious
Freedom.” Lecture delivered as the Third Acton Lecture on
Religion and Freedom, Centre for Independent Studies, 24
6 Derrida was more cryptic about his atheism. Speaking
before a convention of the American Academy of Religion
in 2002, Derrida commented: “I rightly pass for an atheist.”
However, when asked why he would not say more plainly
“I am an atheist,” he replied, “Maybe I’m not an atheist.”
How can Derrida claim to be and not be an atheist? Both
the existence and nonexistence of God requires a universal
statement about reality, but Derrida is unwilling to make
such an absolute claim. In this regard Derrida’s theology is
consistent with his postmodern inclination for ambiguity.
7 Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Postmodern Theology. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 22.
8 Alister McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism. New York:
Doubleday, 2004. p. 227.
9 Carl H. Esbeck, “The Application of RFRA to Override
Employment Nondiscrimination Clauses Embedded in
Federal Social Services Programs.” Engage 9:2 (2008), p. 9.
10 Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “The Painful Last Gasp of Islamist Hate.”
The Weekend Australian, 22–23 September 2012.
11 Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke, The Prince of Freedom
Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First
Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. p.
12 “It’s OK to Hit Your Wife, says Melbourne Cleric Samir
Abu Hamza.” The Australian, 22 January 2009.
13 Coleman v Power (2004) 220 CLR 1, 54, 78, 91. See also:
Roberts v Bass  HCA 1, 62-63; see also: Attorney-
General (SA) v Corop of Adelaide  HCA 3, 43.
14 Adrianne Stone, ‘Rights, Personal Rights and Freedoms:
The Nature of the Freedom of Political Communication’
(2001) 25 Melbourne University Law Review 374, 386-387.
15 Nicholas Aroney, “The Constitutional (In)validity
of Religious Vilification Laws: Implications for their
Interpretation.” Federal Law Review 34:288 (2006), p. 313.
See also Neil Foster, “Anti-Vilification Laws and Freedom
of Religion in Australia—Is Defamation Enough?” Paper
presented at the conference “Justice, Mercy and Conviction:
Perspectives on Law, Religion and Ethics,” University of
Adelaide School of Law, 7–9 June 2013, p. 14.
16 According to Flemming Rose, the Danish editor who has
to live in the shadow of death threats after publishing
cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, the OIC has exploited
those cartoons in the same way a coalition of countries
led by the Soviet Union exploited the Nazis’ genocide of
the Jews to gain U.N. support for including constraints
on freedom of speech in both the Covenant on Political
Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination. Since this meant that the distinction
between words and actions was blurred, the oppressive
regimes that voted for those constraints were subsequently
able to employ them to justify laws used to silence critical
voices. Flemming Rose, The Tyranny of Silence: How One
Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech.
Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2014. p.181–185
17 Ivan Hare, “Crosses, Crescents and Sacred Cows:
Criminalising Incitement to Religious Hatred.” Public Law
(2006), p. 521–531.
18 Rex Tauati Ahdar, “Religious Vilification: Confused Policy,
Unsound Principle and Unfortunate Law.” The University
of Queensland Law Journal 26:2 (2007), pp. 293, 301.
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