Monday, November 15, 2010

"Religious Vilification: Confused Policy, Unsound Principle and Unfortunate Law"

Rex Tauati Ahdar, Religious Vilification: Confused Policy, Unsound Principle and Unfortunate Law, 26 U. Queensland L.J. 293 (2007)

Ahdar's article is focussed on religious vilification in Australia. The article briefly canvasses a purported justification for such laws, the need to prevent discrimination and abuse that hateful statements may cause in society. Ahdar argues that the argument is unconvincing because "the linkage here is indirect, conjectural, and rather diffuse. Some sorts of disparaging or inflammatory speech may provoke improper conduct in some hearers in some circumstances." (p. 297) Next, Ahdar discusses several arguments against religious vilification laws, including the chilling effect the laws have on freedom of speech, the divisiveness they tend to cause between religious groups who use the laws as a blunt instrument to attack each other, the false analogy between religious hate speech and racist hate speech, and more. A good portion of the article is devoted to discussing the 2006 case Catch the Fire Ministries v. Islamic Council of Victoria, which was the first real test of Victoria's religious vilification law. According to Ahdar, the case revealed several problems with religious vilification laws that remain unsolved despite a long and complex court opinion. In the end, he concludes that such laws fall into the category of "things that clearly do not work" to "promote religious harmony and tolerance in society." (p. 316)

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