Caution! Freedom of Religious Expression

According to many, the Israel Folau controversy is not merely about freedom of speech but, more specifically, freedom of religious expression, even religious freedom. Seeing that Folau’s social media post was unquestionably a religious expression and a rather forceful one at that, narrowing down the issue to religious expression appears to be eminently reasonable. But is it?

For a start, freedom of speech or freedom of expression, cover everything said, written, sang, drawn, mimed, etc., regardless of the motivation behind the expression, which also includes, by default, religious beliefs. The only valid exception that might reasonably be applied to freedom of speech/expression without impinging on its true meaning is specific or implied incitement to violence for any reason, or when it is likely to cause baseless mass panic. Offending or bullying any person or a group of people, making them feel anxious, uncomfortable, embarrassed, ashamed, insulted, inferior, causing depression and so on, ought not come into it. It’s  pretty simple and straightforward.

The concept of freedom of religious expression is a perilous minefield by comparison. My familiarity with the intricacies of various religious belief systems is woefully scant. Nevertheless, even with that handicap, I shudder at the thought of the endless list of exemptions that would have to be part of proposed legislation to specifically protect freedom of religious expression without providing unbridled licence to promote any and every doctrine, some quite violent, under the sun.

There are stories of violence in the holy scriptures of all faiths. What if those stories were to be cited as examples for adherents to emulate, or at least respect, based on the teachings of some religion? Ultimately, all that pales into insignificance when the consideration is extended to Islam and its holy scripture, the Koran. Unrestricted freedom of religious expression would protect the citing and exalting on social media and everywhere else of all the violent, bloodthirsty exhortations to the faithful that are generously sprinkled throughout that famous book, the ultimate Holy Scripture of Islam. Suffice to say that, according to the Koran, it is the sacred duty of all true Muslims to bring the entire world under the guidance of The Prophet, ruling over all who resist. Such are Islam’s religious expressions.

In the event that unrestricted freedom of religious expression were guaranteed by law, the only way to prevent the indiscriminate proclaiming and lauding of  creed-based mayhem would be to declare that Islam — to name but one example, as one might also include Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo sarin attackers, the Westboro Baptist church, the early days of  Mormonism or even the murderous thuggee worshippers of Kali (pictured above) —  is not a religion at all but a socio-political ideology. That, of course, happens to be the fact of the matter. Sadly, though, such outright challenge is not possible, at least for the time being. The disturbing reason is that Islam has a great deal of influence over the progressive, liberal elite who dictate acceptable opinions and those which are not.

Let us reiterate that we need to vigorously and steadfastly protect freedom of speech but refrain steadfastly from promoting the freedom of religious expression. It is likely to become a boomerang that returns to maim us.

  • Peter Smith

    Understand you point Bill but don’t agree. Everyone should be free to quote their scripture – provided it can’t be shown to be done to ‘directly’ incite violence against another person or persons. In fact, so far as Islam is concerned the more we hear of its intolerant and violent religious prescriptions the better. It might just persuade even the ABC that it is not a religion of peace; though I doubt it.

  • Stephen Due

    The reason there is now an issue regarding freedom of religious expression that did not exist in the recent past, is the rise of homosexual activism and the concomitant introduction of anti-discrimination legislation. The latter is the problem. It should in my view be removed. If it is not removed, there will be ongoing attempts to restore religious freedoms, including freedom of religious speech, resulting in a legal minefield. Who can define what is religious? It is pure folly to go down this road.

  • Mohsen

    If “specific or implied incitement to violence for any reason, or when it is likely to cause baseless mass panic” are the exceptions to be applied to the freedom of speech and expression, the questions will arise: What is incitement to violence?; How is it defined?; When does a speech cross the threshold of likeliness of causing mass panic?; and who is the arbiter to interpret the definitions of those exceptions?
    Unrestricted freedom of religious expression, freedom to religious practice, and unrestricted freedom of speech only apply and are supposed when viewing the government only as the agent placed to express a view and even act on that view; the unrestrictedness of those freedoms are appropriate, and are and must be respected, and indeed recognized and be granted by the government, within public arena as it is the government’s field of activity!
    (The example of someone shouting “bomb” in an airplane is often cited as an example why the freedom of speech can’t be unrestricted! That example is irrelevant: the shouting “bomb” inevitably, as expected, will cost others: the minimum cost is the disruption of the flight and landing of the plane, and forcing an investigation to verify the claim the shouter has made; he will and must be punished!)
    The freedom of speech or religion—and should be allowed that they—may or may not apply and be respected when it is to be considered and dealt with outside the public arena.
    One might convert to a new religion; the government is ok with it, but one’s father might disinherit him for it.
    One would naturally empathize Israel Folau, but I have a different opinion on this issue altogether: I think people should be allowed to discriminate against others if they wish; so an employer should be allowed to sack—that is, to end the working contract he has—his employee for any reason whatsoever; if he decides that he doesn’t like the employee’s religion, race, sexuality, sex, etc. he should be able to end the contract he has with the employee, as should be the case with the employee himself, for him to end his contract for whatever reason; the only thing to be expected is the compensation to be paid for breaking the contract which was initially made. A baker should be allowed to bake or not bake for whoever he wishes for whatever reason!
    As has been pointed out before by others the issue about Israel Folau is not really about religion; it is purely about power and being in the position to be able or not to wield that power; Folau’s employers don’t like what he says; they sack him, counting on the assumption that they simply can do it. The same employers wouldn’t dare to do such a thing to a Folau if that Folau was promoting homosexuality or spreading Islam, and if they didn’t like what he said.

  • Lawrie Ayres

    Incitting panic, fear should be forbidden as you say but teachers and the ABC do it everyday brainwashing kids and ignorant adults about sea level rises and a frying world. Is it time to sue the education department and the ABC for terrorising sectors of the population?

  • rod.stuart

    How does one define a religion?
    The current obsession with “climate change”, which is impossible to define and without even the most remote empirical evidence, has all of the hallmarks of a religion or more specifically, a cult. Would specifically entrenching religious freedom eventually extend to the climate nonsense? As Lawrie Ayres points out, state sponsored climate evangelism is endemic.
    From https://defyccc.com/cult-of-climate-change/:

    1) Climate alarmists pretend to possess indisputable truths about the past, present, and future. From minute details of the paleoclimate to the world state 200 years in the future, alarmists know everything.

    2) The alarmist movement stubbornly refuses to debate its dogma, calling it “settled science” and viciously attacking its critics. The attacks are not limited to name calling but include prohibiting scientific research that contradicts this dogma. Significant figures within the movement call for criminal persecution of those who publicly disagree with the dogma and, in some cases, for those who do not follow it. Proposed punishments for “heretics” and “infidels” include prison and even death.

    3) The alarmist movement has a formal doctrine-setting body — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The reports and summaries by this body are considered by the alarmists to be the main source of authority on all things related to climate, energy, the biological cycle, and consequentially, everything else. The cult followers (individuals, organizations, and even governments) regularly quote these unholy texts and use them to justify their decisions.

    4) The alarmist movement has its own priest class: taxpayer-funded impostor “climate scientists”, having almost no real (i.e. independent of the climate alarmism) scientific achievements.[1] Frequently, they do not even have scientific degrees.[2] The alarmists sincerely believe that only members of the priest class are capable of understanding and seriously discussing “climate science.” Physicists, biologists, meteorologists, engineers, mathematicians, and other outsiders need not apply.

    It is worth noting that this priest class was appointed by politicians (largely from developing countries) and is completely disconnected from the eminent scientists who founded climate change research at the peak of their scientific careers and produced the most results prior to 1985. All the eminent scientists who have publicly spoken on the topic since the early 1990s strongly opposed climate alarmism and were attacked or defamed by the alarmists. The list of these “skeptics” and “deniers” includes Freeman Dyson, William Nierenberg, Frederick Seitz, Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, and Roger Revelle. None of the founders of climate change research support the alarmism. An anti-alarmist Oregon Petition has been signed by more than 31,000 experts, including more than 9,000 Ph.D.

    5) The climate change cult appears to worship the computer models that its members built with their own hands — literally man-made idols. Needless to say, much of the content of IPCC’s texts comes from these computer models.[3]

    6) The alarmists deny, ignore, or distort elementary scientific facts, some of which should be known even to kids:

    – Photosynthesis. Plants grow by converting atmospheric CO2 into biomass. Significant parts of the world agricultural output are due to additional CO2 fertilization.[4]

    – Archimedes’ principle. Melting of Arctic ice cannot increase the sea level because Arctic ice floats in water.[5]

    – Sunspots and the effect of solar activity changes.[6]

    7) The alarmists appeal to medieval science errors. These errors can be described as beliefs that nature has existed forever in some unchanged state. The inability of a common man or a medieval scientist to observe such changes was the cause of these beliefs. The alarmists revive these errors by denying, ignoring, or underestimating natural climate change; evolution (including species’ disappearance and adaptation); higher CO2 levels in the geological past; natural sea level increases in the current interglacial period; tectonic movement; the complex trajectory of the Earth’s motion around the Sun; and the astronomic observations of stars similar to the Sun.

    8) The alarmists have created and spread climate mythology, sometimes intentionally modeled on archaic misbeliefs that many alarmists attributed to religion. The common logical fallacy can be described as an appeal to everyday experiences, not applicable to the discussed natural processes (the “Flat Earth fallacy”).

  • rod.stuart

    In relation to climate change evangelism, there are some recent scholarly papers which might interest readers:

    It would seem that about 10% of the population (Greens) believe the unbelievable nonsense of eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source. The physics and the arithmetic reveal the suuperstitious nature of this nonsense.
    Papers published recently by Berry and another by Harde support the work of the Fins and the Japanese.

    At what stage will the populous realise that it has been hoodwinked? What will happen to politicians who have been suckered by the climate change malarkey?


    Religion is mentioned in the Australian Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of a state religion.
    This was inserted to placate the 30% of Irish Catholics in the Australian population of 1900, who resented the Anglican Church and its established status in the British Isles. It was not inserted to protect Catholics.
    Times have moved on, and many descendants of those Catholics of 1900, have mutated into atheists. Islam and its highly active terrorist branch is the new religion of fear.
    It neither needs nor deserves special protection. The constitution should suffice for all religions.

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