Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Response to ABC's 'The Street Church case and free speech in Australia'

The paragraphs in square brackets are the report from the ABC which can be found at My response is interspersed in between.

[The Corneloup brothers thought it was their right to invade an Adelaide mall and start preaching their philosophy of Islamophobia and misogyny.]

The Corneloups only stand in a very small area of the mall. The Gospel is against Islam indeed. It is funny how ‘Islamophobia’ is used as a card against Christianity by progressives who claim to hate all religions in their own assumption of tolerance use this term.  What hypocrisy! 

What progressives mean by “misogyny” is really to doubt or challenge the secular, individualistic and humanistic doctrine of feminism. Of course, in their own twisted sense of “justice” and “equity”, the progressives would see Christianity as “misogynist” because it is communalistic, not individualistic, and respects the inherent differences between men and women.

[But unlike the US, where groups like the Westboro Baptist Church can offend with impunity, they were wrong.]

The comparison with Westboro Baptist “church” shows not only the ignorance of the person, but the arrogance in assuming that he as an unsaved person, is capable of understanding the differences between differences between different professing churches.

[In September 2010, The Street Church, founded by brothers Samuel and Caleb Corneloup, started preaching what they considered to be the Word of God in the middle of the Rundle St Mall, Adelaide's major shopping district. ]
It is not what the Corneloups considered to be the Word of God, but that it is the Word of God. This is why all unsaved people of a range of opposing worldviews, are united in their hostility against them, whether they are Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, or anyone else who is not a true Christian.
[The brothers and a small group of followers armed with megaphones, signs, and placards walked up and down the mall, airing their views on religion, sexuality, gender rights, and equality.]
It is not “their” views. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.
[Sean Fewster, the chief court reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser, followed the group’s growing notoriety.
‘Their message was very anti-Muslim, anti-foreigner, anti-woman and anti-gay,’ he says. ‘They were quite fond of shouting at passers-by that they would be going to hell for whatever they were doing at the moment, be it holding hands or wearing Muslim dress. They talked about foreigners being dirty, they talked about unmarried couples being sinners.’]
An unsaved person cannot understand anything of the Word of God for what it really is. An unsaved person is assuming they understand the Word of God when they know very well that they do not want to know God, and hate God and His Word. This is not only arrogance, but blasphemy. Yes, blasphemy can be committed by “pagan” people in “explaining” the Bible which they cannot possibly understand.
What is the evidence of the Corneloups saying ‘foreigners being dirty’, or that passers-by would be going to hell for ‘wearing Muslim dress’ or ‘holding hands’? What is the evidence?  This is most probably the court reporter twisting words out of his hatred for the preachers.
[There is no constitutional right to free speech in Australia, but over the years our courts have developed what's referred to as an implied right to political communication. It was this concept that was at the heart of the High Court case involving the Corneloup brothers.]
[Shopkeepers and the general public moved quickly to ask Adelaide City Council to evict the fire and brimstone preachers from Rundle St Mall. Police officers tried to break up the Friday night prayer meetings but the preachers would often refuse to go.]
It would be interesting as to whether the same reaction would occur if a group with a different worldview was doing the same or equivalent things eg rallying, gathering together to have a group meeting, handing out pamphlets etc.
[Eventually the Adelaide City Council used by-laws, in existence since 2004, that prevent a person from preaching, haranguing, or otherwise tending ministry without first obtaining a permit. The Corneloup brothers decided to challenge these by-laws—a case which went all the way to the High Court of Australia.
[Mr Fewster says the pair were self-represented. ‘Caleb Corneloup did the majority of the speaking. He was fond of saying that he had only a Year Nine education and yet he was beating QCs at their own game, which he viewed as God taking mercy upon Adelaide by allowing the preachers to continue to spread his word.’]
Indeed, God would be giving people more time for repentance, including the people writing this presumptuous report, assuming they understand the Bible when they cannot. Yes, God is gracious and does not want anyone to end up in Hell, including these defamatory liars of journalists who write this report.
[But his luck ran out when the High Court last week ruled against The Street Church.]
This is not luck. It is God’s plan. The Corneloups do not believe in luck.
[The court stated that even though the council by-law restricted free speech, the council was exercising its powers properly in creating that by-law for public order. Professor Adrienne Stone, the director of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Melbourne, puts it this way: ‘The purpose of this law was to prevent obstruction—to protect the safe and convenient use of the streets, in this case the Adelaide Mall. And the judges took the view that this is a reasonable and legitimate reason to limit freedom of political communication.’]
Yes, Caleb Corneloup agreed it was reasonable to ensure public safety and order regarding use of space.
[Last week the High Court ruled on another important freedom of speech case that also involved a potent mix of religion and politics—and shows the relative weakness of the implied common law right to political communication in Australia compared to other jurisdictions like the US.]
Indeed, there is a mix of religion and politics – as the media has caused it to be by making it a matter of politics.
[Radical Muslim cleric, Sheik Man Haron Monis, wrote offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan. The letters started with condolences for the loss of a son, including phrases like 'May God grant you patience and to guide us all on the right path.' But they then went on to brand dead soldiers as murderers of civilians, comparing them to pigs and to Hitler. Sheik Monis was charged under a provision of the Commonwealth criminal code which makes it an offence to use the postal service in a way that is offensive, harassing, or menacing.  Sheik Monis responded by arguing that the prosecution could not proceed because the laws impinged on his implied right to political communication.]
The Gospel is offensive to the unsaved. However, it is not hatred to share it. It is love. Therefore, the case of Monis is not analogous to the case of the Corneloups in any way whatsoever.
[But unlike the Adelaide case, the result was somewhat inconclusive, because the court split evenly down the middle. Normally there are seven judges, but during the window in which these cases were heard, a judge had retired without yet being replaced. ]
[All six judges accepted that the letters amounted to political communication, because the letters discussed Australia’s military involvement in Afghanistan. But the court split 3–3 on whether or not the offences were a reasonable limit on the right to political communication.]
[Three judges—Chief Justice  French, and Justices Hayne and Heydon— took the view this wasn't a reasonable limitation, finding that the prevention of offence is not a legitimate end to which the parliament can direct laws. Justice Hayne said: ‘History, not only recent history, teaches us that abuse and invective are an inevitable part of political discourse.’]
[Professor Stone says these three judges feel strongly that political communication in Australia should be robust and vigorous, ‘to the point that it may be offensive, even very offensive, but that just is our tradition—offensiveness (by itself) can never be a good enough reason to regulate freedom of political communication.’]
The Gospel transcends all this humanistic law because it IS beyond human wisdom, and understanding.
[But Justices Crennan, Kiefel and Bell took the opposite line. They found that the threshold for offence in the postal law is suitably high. It doesn't apply just to the merely offensive, only to the very offensive material. They also found that because the letter was delivered to the house of the victim, this amounted to an intrusion into a private space. In their view, it is legitimate for the parliament to pass a law that seeks to prevent us from receiving extremely insulting material through the mail into our homes.]
Offensiveness is not the issue here in Corneloup. The issue is truth that is beyond human understand and that these judges need to hear.
[Because the court split down the middle, the decision of the lower court allowing the prosecutions against Sheik Monis stands. His trial will proceed.]
[So where do these important freedom of expression cases leave us? Professor Stone says it's now clear that laws designed to prevent the obstruction of traffic and the safe and convenient use of the roads are constitutional. A law that pursues those sorts of goals can limit freedom of political communication, as long as it limits it in a reasonably proportionate kind of a way. ‘What is much less clear is a law whose very object is to prevent offence, even very severe offence,’ Professor Stone says. ‘On that question in the Monis case you see that the High Court was divided right down the middle.’]
The Gospel has not limits. The Corneloups are to obey God rather than humans.
[If these two cases had been heard by the US Supreme Court it is almost certain that the Corneloup brothers and Sheik Monis would have won.]
It is irrelevant as to whether the US Supreme Court would support the case of Corneloup or Monis.
 [In 2011 there was a decision with clear parallels to the two Australian cases.]
From a secular perspective, they are “parallel”, as since all religions are “the same”.
[The court upheld the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to demonstrate outside the funerals of US soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The church believes that the US's tolerance of homosexuals angered God and in response He allowed US soldiers to die on the battlefield.]
Comparable to Monis, but not Corneloup.
[Mr Snyder, the father of a dead soldier, commenced a legal action arguing that the interruption of his son’s funeral caused him emotional distress. He won  $5 million in damages but the US Supreme Court overturned this ruling. Professor Stone says in the US speech is almost invariably protected. The First Amendment, the right to free speech, shows a very high degree of tolerance for even the most offensive kinds of speech. ‘Although the United States Supreme Court was absolutely clear it thought that this was terrible and worthless expression, it nonetheless protected it as freedom of speech on a public matter in a public place,’ she says.]
It is irrelevant whether it is ‘religious speech’ that provides ground for the ruling.
[Back in Australia it is unclear how the law will evolve when faced with highly offensive speech. Professor Stone says the Monis decision leaves us ‘on a knife's edge’. Since the case two new judges have been appointed to the High Court and there is no way of knowing on what side of the line they would fall.]
A subject matter for media in its specifically anti-Christian propaganda.
Until next time.

Listen to the full report with Damien Carrick on the Law Report.