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Melbourne Archbishop urges rethink of Vic hatred law

Archbishop Denis Hart said Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, which was brought into focus by recent court action between the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Catch The Fire evangelical Christian group, tends to blur race and religion.

"The nuancing isn't there. We want to allow robust dialogue by adherents of particular religions, but not in a way that gathers up race or is unjust or stereotypes," he told The Age.

Archbishop Hart (pictured) was one of a number of church leaders to join forces to urge the State Government to fix the law. The leaders of the main denominations discussed the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act last week, and were due to meet Mr Bracks today. But the meeting was postponed until next week because of today's funeral of former governor and the Uniting Church's inaugural moderator Rev Dr Davis McCaughey.

The judgement in December that a conservative Christian group, Catch The Fire, had vilified Muslims under the act brought the question into sharper focus. The Catholic and Uniting churches supported Muslims against Catch the Fire.

Maureen Postma, secretary of the Victorian Council of Churches, said some churches were against the legislation and others were less convinced. "Not too many of those jumping up and down are actually involved in interfaith dialogue," she said.

Earlier this month, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission (EIC) of the Catholic Archdiocese published a Position Statement which explained the Catholic Church's support for the Islamic Council of Victoria's anti-vilification case against Catch the Fire Ministries, before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Catholics and other Christians had asked why Christian witnesses were appearing in court supporting non-Christians against another Christian group. The Church's expert witnesses included Fr Pat McInerney, a Columban priest from Sydney.

"Anti-Catholic vilification still occurs in some corners of our society. Our sympathies therefore naturally lie with any who find themselves victims of such conduct. In standing with them in such situations we are seeking to act as neighbours to those in need," the statement said.

Hatred law needs overhaul: churches (The Age 31/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, Archdiocese of Melbourne | Talking about other Faiths: A Position Statement of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne (16/3/05)

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal | Islamic Council of Victoria v Catch the Fire
Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act
Catch the Fire Ministries
Historic win in religious hatred case (The Age 18/12/04)

Catholics back Muslim claims against evangelical Christians (CathNews 22/3/05)

31 Mar 2005