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Religious freedom of speech outlawed in Australia?

By December 20, 2004

Australia (MNN) — A huge blow has been dealt to evangelism and free speech in Victoria, Australia. According to Tears of the Oppressed, a Christian human rights organization, the rights of average Australians are threatened as two Christian pastors are pronounced guilty under the Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act of 2001.

Ramon Williams is with Worldwide Photos, a religious media agency in Sydney, Australia. He says tells us what happened with Catch the Fire Ministries’ Pastor Danny Nalliah and speaker Daniel Scot, who held a seminar on Islam in March, 2002. “During that seminar there were a couple of folk who’d become Muslim who sat in the meeting. They went back to the Islamic Council of Victoria, who took the action against Catch the Fire for condemning Islam.”

Judge Michael Higgins with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal blasted the Catch the Fire Ministries in his verdict declaring that Nalliah and Scot vilified Islam. Many in Australia say religious freedom of speech has now been outlawed. A summary judgment is expected to be released some time this week.

Williams says, “Pastor Nalliah could get a six month jail sentence, or he could get a $30,000 fine as well.”

This decision could severely restrict church evangelism and Christian radio in the region. Williams says, “Some of the organizations here, especially those concerned with the persecuted church around the world, realize that they might even be in trouble for mailing material into Victoria.”

This is the first test of the 2001 state law. It’s unclear whether or not the nation’s constitution will effect this judgment. Prayer is vital right now.

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