favor Thursday, December 14, from the Court of Appeal.
Three judges of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria set aside the orders given by a judge at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last year against Pastor Danny Nalliah, Pastor Daniel Scot and Catch the Fire Ministries.
"These orders had required them to publish a statement acknowledging their guilt and undertaking to refrain from making similar comments about Muslims and Islam again," said Barnabas Fund, a major religious rights group. "This statement was required to be printed in the form of several large advertisements in newspapers and on Catch the Fire’s website and in its newsletter."
However the Appeal Court judges ordered the case be reheard at the original tribunal, with the same evidence as before, but with a different judge. "They furthermore ordered that the Islamic Council of Victoria, who had brought the original complaint against the pastors, should pay half of costs for the appeal. The costs of the original hearing are to be decided by the judge who rehears the case," said Barnabas Fund in a statement to BosNewsLife.
In a statement Pastor Scot thanked his supporters and said he would continue to conduct seminars on the Qur’an and Hadith (Islamic traditions). "Some Muslims have got the idea they have to hide the truth, and that’s very sad… People should know it from the primary sources and not be misled by politically correct teachers who don’t know the reality of Islam …"
This was the first case to be held under Victoria State’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act which was adopted in 2001. The complaint concerned comments made by the two pastors on March 9 2002 at a seminar for Christians on the subject of Islam, as well as a newsletter from the organization Catch the Fire Ministries and an article on its website.
The Tribunal judge had ruled that they were in breach of Section 8 of the Act which forbids incitement of "hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of" another person or class of persons on the ground of religious belief.
"We rejoice with Daniel and Danny about the ruling of the Court of Appeal. As Danny has said, this is a victory for free speech. While it is vital to protect people from physical injury or threat, this should not mean that beliefs and ideologies have to be protected from criticism," said Barnabas Fund International Director Patrick Sookhdeo.
His group has expressed concerns that a law "intended to foster good community relations is having exactly the opposite effect." The Court of Appeal rejected however the suggestion that the law itself was unconstitutional. (With reports from Australia).