So obviously I’ve been on something of a hiatus with blogging recently. I’m hard at work on my Moore College 4th year project (thesis) on Christian generosity with special reference to Peter Singer. My hope is that during November I’ll be able to make a few summary posts that explain where I’ve headed with it, for the sake of those who are interested in my findings but not interested enough to sit through 15 000 words.
Last night I received the Australian Christian Lobby’s e-newsletter. It included an extended message from the ACL Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton. I’ve included it in full below. In the letter, in something of a stream-of-consciousness Shelton gives us his thoughts on what he calls ‘the Bolt judgement’, then seamlessly transitions into a Greens drive-by.
Shelton, in my view, does Christianity no favours by siding with Andrew Bolt in this matter.
While I understand Shelton’s uneasiness about curtailment of free speech we need to remember exactly what Bolt was been accused of – without a scrap of evidence offered he went on to malign a group of people, implying that they are welfare cheats. We might well say, “that’s his opinion and he is free to express it” but is that good enough? If his opinion is unsubstantiated with facts or data, does he really have the ‘right’ to voice them?
Moreover, Shelton chastises the courts for being the ones to decide on this matter. He argues that the ‘court of public opinion’ should be the court that decides on free speech issues. This bothers me. One of the common features of the court of public opinion is that it tends towards the majority. It also not an impartial court, with control held by those privileged enough to have their voices heard above the rest of us. In short, in the court of public opinion guys like Bolt have a megaphone.
I can’t think of a single theological justification for the defence of Bolt in this matter. It saddens me but this seems to be another example of the ACL siding with the conservative side of the political spectrum when it can’t think of anything “Goddish” to say.
The Federal Court’s ‘Bolt Judgement’, as it has quickly become known, raises serious concerns about free speech in this country.
Nine people of Aboriginal descent complained that they were maligned and insulted by News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt and the Court agreed the Racial Discrimination Act had been breached.
Bolt is sometimes strident and less than gracious in his criticism of others.
But being “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated” by a newspaper article is hardly reason for a court case.
Surely this should be thrashed on in the court of public opinion through vigorous debate, not litigation.
Anti-defamation laws are well established and this is the course through which any grievance should have been pursued, not anti-discrimination law.
The Greens often raise the issue of ‘hate speech’ but employ a double standard as we have seen within the Tasmanian Parliament recently.
With the benefit of the Hansard record we show in today’s E-news just how aggressive last week’s Greens’ attack on Tasmanian Liberal leader Will Hodgman was. His crime was to give a moderate and balanced defence of marriage between a man and a woman.
Surely the Greens don’t suggest defending a child’s right to its biological mother and father is hate speech?
Racial and religious vilification legislation, which exists in most States, is very much a farce as was seen in the two Dannies case in the early 2000s.
Yesterday’s Bolt Judgement further highlights the problem of these laws which allow court cases based on feelings of hurt or insult but which will probably never apply to supporters of marriage who it seems can be pilloried as bigots with impunity.
Correction: A supporter has picked me up on my historical accuracy following last week’s E-news. “Thank you so much for the use of this Falklands War analogy from 1982- however, I believe a slight amendment is needed, as the 23 Royal Marine Commandos involved in the engagement described were defending the island of South Georgia, at Gryviken, while another 80 of their comrades, under their CO, Major Mike Norman, on the main island of the Falklands defended against the Argentine invasion at Port Stanley, in no less a heroic manner against overwhelming odds.”
Chief of Staff