The Church of Scientology has submitted recommendations to the Australian Human Rights Commission is response to their “Freedom of Religion and Belief in the 21st century project.” The Church states that it:
supports the adoption by Federal and/or State Governments of Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’) which states that ‘any advocacy of…religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.’
To balance that with free speech issues, the Church also supports adoption of:
Recommendation 5.3 advocates a law to ‘proscribe the advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence as required by ICCPR Article 20.’ The Recommendation continues by stating that, ‘[t]his [law] should exempt from the proscription of religious vilification acts done reasonably and in good faith:
- in the performance, exhibition or distribution of artistic work;
- in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or
- held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other
- genuine purpose in the public interest; or
- in making or publishing a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest.’
Their recommendations also include ‘unmasking’ of those whom they describe as engaging in acts that should be illegal. The ‘unmasking” that they recommend applies to both online and offline activities.
Offline, they recommend:
To facilitate the enforcement of such proposed laws, people engaged in campaigns of harassment and vilification against religions shall be prohibited from deliberately concealing their identity by way of wearing masks, etc. Police should be empowered to order the removal of such masks if there is a reasonable likelihood that the proposed religious vilification law has been offended against.
While online, they recommend:
Recommendation 2: Restriction on Anonymity of Religious Bigots
2.1 Websites created with the primary purpose of inciting religious vilification shall be removed or their access to the Australian public restricted; and
2.2 Creators of websites whose primary purpose is the incitement of religious vilification shall be prevented from concealing their identity.
The second recommendation would require the Australian Government to take action to prevent the creators of websites whose primary purpose is the incitement of religious vilification to block such sites from using programs such as WhoisGuard to conceal their identity.
The Church is also unhappy with media coverage, and wants another law:
Recommendation 3: Restriction on Religious Misinformation and Misrepresentation known or reasonably known to be untruthful, in the Media
It is recommended that a law be enacted to prevent the dissemination of antireligious propaganda in the media, which is based on unfounded hearsay and either known or reasonably known to be untruthful. Such dissemination shall be the subject of a civil penalty provision in favour of the defamed Church, and/or its individual parishioners if they are individually named or otherwise identified.
You can read their complete submission here (.doc format). The submission begins with a detailed descriptions of the threats of violence and harassment church members have experienced.
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