Religious vilification is hurting outreach again in Australia

By April 25, 2005

Australia (MNN/RW) — “The latest complaint of ‘religious vilification’ in Victoria will send shock waves throughout the entire Christian community” said Peter Stokes, CEO of Salt Shakers Christian Ethics Group.

“It is outrageous that a pedophile prison inmate can call for ALPHA courses to be closed down in Victoria under Victoria’s Racial & Religious Tolerance Act,” Stokes said. “Alpha Courses are one of the main evangelistic programs, used by most Christian denominations, across Australia.”

A directions hearing was held last week before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The complaint, made by Robin Fletcher, is in relation to an Alpha course run by the Salvation Army in Ararat jail. Fletcher is a self confessed witch and is currently in Ararat prison, having been convicted of sexual abuse against two teenage girls in 1998. He was jailed for 10 years.

Fletcher lodged complaints against the Salvation Army, (because it was a Salvation Army chaplain who ran the course); Corrections Victoria (the Victorian government section of the Justice Department that runs the prison system) and CMC Australasia P/L (the distributors of the Alpha program materials in Victoria). Fletcher is complaining about references to witchcraft in the Alpha Program videos and manuals.

In his complaint he called for ALPHA courses to be stopped throughout Victoria “until suitable modifications can be made to bring it into conformity with the law in Victoria.” This would clearly entail changing the words of the BIBLE itself because all references used are Scriptural.

The Equal Opportunity Commission ‘declined to entertain the complaint.’ However, Fletcher asked that the complaint be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which agreed to hear the case. The VCAT Deputy President gave Fletcher three weeks to lodge his formal complaint to VCAT. A timetable was set down for responses from the other parties.

Robin Fletcher stated in a letter to Corrections Victoria. “The first program I wish to complain about is the Alpha program. I consider that this program is in violation of the Equal Opportunity ACT Victoria and also of the Religious Tolerance ACT of Victoria. I ask that you ban the ALPHA program in all prisons in Victoria until this matter is resolved…”

“I am further asking for the discontinuation of the Alpha program because it constitutes a personal danger to my health and safety within the prison system. In this case, because the matter is a serious one involving potential of physical harm to myself and others you may be vicariously in breach of the ‘serious violations section’ of the Religious Tolerance ACT.’

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