Religious Vilification Legislation: Balancing Competing Rights in the Light of the Universal Declaration

May 29, 2012

I was invited by a religious lobby group to write an article on the place of religious vilification within international and domestic human rights and anti-discrimination law.

Religious and racial vilification and the religious and racial hatred have been causes of some of those ?barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind? both before and after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The prevention of such vilification is essential to ensuring the right of all to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms in the ?the absence of distinction of any kind? of which Article 2 of the Declaration speaks so articulately. On the other hand, freedom of belief requires an ability to express those beliefs forcibly and with conviction.

Legislation preventing religious vilification will, therefore, involve difficult balancing acts. In this piece I overview the relevant provisions under international conventions, and domestic State legislation, focusing in particular on the Victorian Racial and Religious Toleration Act 2001. This legislation, which was tested in the case of Catch the Fire Ministries v Islamic Council of Victoria, I argue, goes a long way to finding an appropriate form of that balance.

I have posted the article as a reflective piece, which you can access below.