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Letter To The Editor: Freedom Of Speech
By : Milton Oliver
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I read with interest Nigel Mann’s comments on my comments on an article in the AC concerning the quashed convictions of the pastors of Catch the Fire Ministries by the Victorian Supreme Court, and respond here. First, I affirm that Nigel has the right to express his views. Second, I think I do too. The state judicial system is no sacred cow and is not above the law - which is why we have an appeals process. The fact that someone appeals and succeeds based on the facts is something very reassuring. Sometimes the courts do get it very wrong. I have never met the appellants in the case in question. However, I have read the transcripts of the original seminars and through Judge Higgins’ judgment, as well as reading through the judgments of the three judges presiding over the appeal. They make very interesting reading. I realise it is always dangerous to offer selected samplings of long document because we are always in danger of playing to our own biases. But I’ll risk it here.

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Comments / Feedback
Kevin and Gwenyth Bray
I don't wish to comment on the legal proceedings. However, I have listened to pastor Nalliah's talk "A Call to Action" via the Catch the Fire Ministries' website. It is a diatribe as only a member of the religious far right can deliver! It castigates the Church, the (Victorian) Government and "the Communists" for their positions on racial and religious tolerance, abortion, the (proposed) Bill of Rights, the "banning of the Bible in hotels and hospitals" and for the (proposed) banning of home schooling - as if all these are, or soon will be, realities!! A sample: referring to what he claims is the Victorian Premier's support for the Bill of Rights, he asks "is it [the Premier's support] because Steve Bracks comes from a Lebanese background?" and he adds "Say no to multiculturalism and yes to Australia [otherwise] if we go down this track it will lead to civil war." He is also concerned that current policies "pamper to the minorities."

In my view, there is a need for Christians to engage in public issues from an ethical, justice-based perspective, in which (consistent with the Gospel) we do concern ourselves and our churches with the protection of the marginalised (which often includes those pastor Nalliah chooses to call "minorities'). But for God's sake, let's get away from a sole preoccupation with narrow issues of personal morality and engage on issues of justice for Indigenous people, the mentally ill, the poor (especially women and children in the third world) and the numerous other groups here and overseas for whom Jesus promised liberty and freedom (Luke 4: 18).
Keith Skillicorn
It should be noted that the "Catch the Fire Ministry Pastors in the said "Villification" Case were very positive in all they said in court, quoting from the Koran, rather than expressing their own personal views. They gave a very gracious testimony which should make us proud of them. They have set a splendid example of how we should defend the Faith when our turn comes to suffer persecution. There is no need for us to condemn Islam for the cult condemns itself by reason of the Koran's contents.

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