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    What a disgusting place the pulpit is!



    Church found to have vilified Muslims
    December 17, 2004 - 12:42PM


    Pastor Danny Nalliah.
    Photo: Shaney Balcombe
    Web links

    * VCAT hearing - Oct 2003
    * Religious and Racial Tolerance Act
    * Catch the Fire Ministries
    * Islamic Council of Victoria

    An evangelical Christian ministry has been found to have vilified Islam during a seminar and in a newsletter which mocked the religion.

    The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) today blasted the Catch the Fire Ministries, its pastor Danny Nalliah, and speaker Daniel Scot over the March 2002 seminar in Melbourne and several articles in the church's newsletter.

    In a decision handed down today in a major test of Victoria's three-year-old racial and religious vilification laws, Judge Michael Higgins found in favour of the Islamic Council of Victoria, which took the action against Catch The Fire.

    Judge Higgins found that Catch the Fire and Pastor Scot had breached section eight of the Religious and Racial Tolerance Act.

    Also found in breach was church leader Pastor Nalliah, who was an unsuccessful senate candidate for the Family First party in this year's federal election.

    Judge Higgins will decide on penalties, which could include orders for an apology or damages, early next year.

    Judge Higgins said the seminar run by the ministry, a newsletter on its website, and a website article written by an author identified as Richard all breached the Act.
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    In a summary of reasons for his decision, Judge Higgins said Pastor Scot had throughout the seminar made fun of Muslim beliefs and conduct.

    "It was done, not in the context of a serious discussion of Muslims' religious beliefs," Judge Higgins said.

    "It was presented in a way which is essentially hostile, demeaning and derogatory of all Muslim people, their God, Allah, the prophet Mohammed and in general Muslim religious beliefs and practices."

    Judge Higgins said that, during the seminar, Pastor Scot had claimed that the Koran promoted violence, killing and looting and that Muslims were liars and demons.

    Pastor Scot also had said Muslims had a plan to overrun western democracy by violence and terror and wanted to turn Australia into an Islamic nation, and he exaggerated Muslim population numbers in Australia.

    "I find that Pastor Scot's conduct was not engaged in reasonably and in good faith for any genuine religious purpose or any purpose that is in the public interest," he said.

    Judge Higgins said an article in the church's newsletter, written by Pastor Nalliah, incited fear and hatred of Muslims, as did a third article by a person identified as Richard, which claimed it was not possible to separate Islam from terrorism.

    Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commission welcomed the decision on the case, which was the first to be heard by VCAT since the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act took effect at the start of 2002.

    "The decision is very significant in terms of showing how the Act operates in practice," said the commission's chief executive, Dr Helen Szoke.

    "It demonstrates where the line is drawn between legitimate public debate and behaviour that incites hatred."

    A full reason for the decision is expected to be handed down in the next fortnight, including any penalties.

    Comment was being sought from the ministries leader and the Islamic Council of Victoria.

    - AAP
 
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