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Catch the Fire Ministries v Islamic Council of Victoria Inc: Free speech wins – just

with 157 comments

We supporters of free speech can thank our lucky stars that the drafters of Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 were appallingly bad at their craft. In cobbling together the criminal law conception of ‘incitement’ with the law of defamation’s ‘ordinary reasonable reader’, they have produced a statute so incapable of interpretation that Pastors Scot and Nalliah have been saved – at least in the Court of Appeal – from adverse findings under it.

At bottom, this case is very simple. Two pastors – one of them a Pakistani Christian – conducted a seminar on the ugly bits of Islam. The Islamic Council of Victoria sent stooges along to the seminar to record their comments, and then ran off to the Tribunal alleging religious vilification (aka blasphemy). The Islamic Council succeeded before the Tribunal, which ordered the two pastors to abase themselves in public in similar terms to corporations caught out under s52 of the Trade Practices Act – apologies in neon lights, retractions and undertakings not to do it again.

The Victorian Court of Appeal was asked to rule on two core claims. First, did the seminar and articles Pastors Scot and Nalliah presented – concerning the religious beliefs of Muslims – incite hatred against, serious contempt for or revulsion or severe ridicule of Muslims on the ground of religious belief under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001, specifically ss. 8, 9 and 11?

Second, Catch the Fire contended that the act was unconstitutional, violating the implied freedom of communication about government or political matters present in the Constitution as articulated in Lange.

In brief, Catch the Fire won on the first point and lost on the second, which means their ‘win’ – however gratifying for lovers of liberty – was only partial. To a degree, their win reflects loose drafting – the legislation is horrendous. The Court of Appeal – despite acidic remarks from two of the three Justices (Nettle JA and Neave JA) – has sensibly left the second issue to the High Court, should the Islamic Council of Victoria have the balls to seek leave to appeal. For those interested, the full reasons are here. All three justices wrote separate reasons, although Ashley JA’s comments are very brief. Nettle JA is very good on the first issue, while Neave JA covers the constitutional issues with admirable brevity and clarity.

If nothing else, the litigation reveals how bad the legislation is, and how easy it is to be caught under its provisions. Nalliah and Scot had done little more than the standard Skeptical attack on Christianity – they’d gone through the Koran and mined out the egregiously violent bits, and then cracked a few lame jokes. If they are to be caught under this legislation, where does that leave a (potential) Australian Borat or Rowan Atkinson?

The third difficulty with the Tribunal’s reasoning, as I perceive it, is that the Tribunal’s failure to observe the distinction between hatred of beliefs and hatred of adherents to beliefs has resulted in the Tribunal deciding the matter on the basis that the Seminar was not a “balanced” discussion of Muslim beliefs. Hence, the significance of the Tribunal’s observation, already referred to, that: ‘The Seminar was not a balanced discussion. It was a process of taking literal translations from the Qur’an, and making no allowance for their applicability to modern day society…’

Woinarski QC attempted to argue before the Court of Appeal that hating Muslim beliefs amounted to hating Muslims. As Nettle JA shows in the above quotation, this did not wash. We may live in a secular country these days, but most of us are capable of following a humanist version of St Augustine’s advice: love the sinner and hate the sin. Nettle JA had clearly become quite tired of people attempting to paint their religion in a wholly positive light:

Whether his statements about the religious beliefs of Muslims were accurate or inaccurate or balanced or unbalanced was incapable of yielding an answer to the question of whether the statements incited hatred or other relevant emotion. Statements about the religious beliefs of a group of persons could be completely false and utterly unbalanced and yet do nothing to incite hatred of those who adhere to those beliefs. At the same time, statements about the religious beliefs of a group of persons could be wholly true and completely balanced and yet be almost certain to incite hatred of the group because of those beliefs. In any event, who is to say what is accurate or balanced about religious beliefs?

More disturbing were his lengthy findings of fact – the Tribunal had simply proven unable to sift gold from the dross, and had made many factual errors.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that a Tribunal is a ‘quasi-judicial’ body. It does not have a court’s authority, and is often unbound by the laws of evidence, preferring a truncated version, or a series of waffly ‘guiding principles’. It is instead a creature of Adminstrative Law, something lawyers have created in response to the depredations of government on our lives. When government gets it wrong, the reasoning goes, there must be some way of holding it to account. The response has been the rapid encrustation of Adminstrative Law on our institutions – Tribunals, Panels, Commissions. All are designed – using often clumsy mechanisms best suited to courts of law – to protect us from the state. That said, a Tribunal’s rulings – unless challenged – solidify into ‘law’ in much the same way as a court order. The net effect of this win is that Nalliah and Scot go back before the Tribunal, but before a different judge and with the Court of Appeal’s careful (and favourable to their case) analysis of the statute in hand. The result is therefore likely to be very different.

Nettle JA also had some pointed observations to make about common cultural values. They are worth pondering even among libertarians, who tend to advocate a large immigration intake and concomitant diversity as a matter of course. Everything – no matter how worthy – carries a cost:

It is not all that long ago that the standards of the hypothetical reasonable person were spoken of in terms of the man on the Clapham omnibus. So long as the population of this country was of predominantly Anglo-Celtic extraction, that was perhaps as apposite here as it was in United Kingdom. But today, as in the United Kingdom, our society is different. It is now a polytopic multicultural society and we recognise, and indeed the Preamble to the Act makes clear, that the standards of reasonable persons are the standards of an open and just multicultural society. Accordingly, where as here the conduct in question consists in the making of statements for a religious purpose, the question of whether it was engaged in reasonably for that purpose must be decided according to whether it would be so regarded by reasonable persons in general judged by the standards of an open and just multicultural society. Such an assessment may not always be easy. A society which consists of varied cultural groups necessarily has the benefit, and bears the burden, of a plurality of standards. Hence, in this society, to speak of persons in general is to speak of persons who in large part have different standards. And to speak of what is reasonable among them it is to invoke an idea which as between them is to a considerable extent informed by different standards. Nevertheless, experience has taught us that reasonable members of an open and just multicultural society are inclined to agree on the basics.

Only Neave JA – a woman commonly credited with saving generations of property law students from themselves through her uniformly excellent textbooks – considered the second issue in any depth. Her reasoning is clear and precise. It also reveals the limitations of ‘implied rights’, and cries out for an Australian equivalent to the US First Amendment. In short, the implied freedom found by the High Court in cases like Australian Capital Television and Lange only goes this far:

In Lange, the High Court made it clear that the implied freedom could be inferred from the provisions of the Constitution which provide for the institutions of representative and responsible government. In consequence, the extent to which communication on political and governmental matters will be protected from legislative intervention is ‘limited to what is necessary for the effective operation of that system of representative and responsible government provided for by the constitution’.

Religion is therefore not sufficiently political and not sufficiently burdened with running the country.

Rejoice in this victory – the Court of Appeal ruling is very good – but hope at some point for this beast to finish up in the High Court. Even better, hope for a constitutional guarantee for freedom of speech.

Hat tip to CL, who alerted me to the fact that this ruling had been brought down.

UPDATE: RL reminds me that I should make this point clearer – the Court of Appeal has set aside the finding of the VCAT Tribunal and ordered a new hearing under a differently constituted Tribunal.

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Written by Admin

December 14, 2006 at 11:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

157 Responses

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  1. The fastest case note I’ve ever written. Apologies in advance for any infelicities.

    skepticlawyer

    December 14, 2006 at 11:18 pm

  2. Fantastic.

    You know for a young bloke C8tos judgement is abnormally sound.

    Hey skeptic. Can you do me a favour and move my two comments on this subject on the other thread onto this thread instead?

    I don’t mean necessarily tonight.

    Just some time or other.

    The is very important news on so many levels.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 12:01 am

  3. SL

    I would say the Islamic council would never take this to the High court as it looks like this is going to turn into a dead letter law.

    I donated some money to the pastors legal fund in support of this case. Damn! Best expense ever.

    I love those judges.

    One little concern though. I don’t think they had any business talking about our mutlicutural society as I think that went too far. I hope that small comment never bights us in the bum in the future.

    Hey but at least the goods guys won.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 12:10 am

  4. Great summary girly. I normally don’t like lawyers, but I make an exception for you and Soon.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 12:12 am

  5. Soon what?

    Rafe Champion

    December 15, 2006 at 12:23 am

  6. How Soon, Rafe?

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 12:28 am

  7. I think Jason has a law degree floating about someplace, although I don’t know how much he uses it on a day-to-day basis.

    Just sayin.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 12:42 am

  8. “At bottom, this case is very simple. Two pastors – one of them a Pakistani Christian – conducted a seminar on the ugly bits of Islam. The Islamic Council of Victoria sent stooges along to the seminar to record their comments, and then ran off to the Tribunal alleging religious vilification (aka blasphemy).”

    When did this seminar take place?

    I mean depending on the timing this sort of daring behaviour…. Well its pretty heroic.

    Look what happened to Van Gough and all-round good-guy Pim Fortuyn.

    The level of international Islamic contempt AND CONTEMPT AGAINST THE RIGHTEOUS TRUE AND GOOD MORE GENERALLY goes up and down like a barometer for the wider war.

    This activity they were engaged in can be very dangerous.

    In the case of Van Gough he was shot and stabbed and stabbed and stabbed and all the time he was saying….. “We can talk about this. Wait. We can discuss this” or something similiar.

    And the evil bastard inserted a note into Van Goughs body.

    Anyhow the next week or so someone put a sign or some Graffiti or something near to the scene of the crime:

    THOUGH SHALT NOT KILL went the message.

    Offensive?

    An offensive message?

    Was this an offensive message?

    An offensive message YES OR NO??!!!!

    Well the local Islamic community thought so. And the more important Dutch tax-eaters.

    Because the sign was removed.

    Political correctness is another name for the bad guys leaning forward and the good guys not taking the offensive but instead saying “Lets be reasonable”

    LETS KEEP THE DEBATE CIVIL.

    But I guess my main point is that the many-legged beast called CONTEMPT is a chameleon who DOES NOT respect national boundaries but DOES change his colours when he crosses them.

    But his shifting nature doesn’t change the fact that his size and power balloons and shrinks in direct proportion to the amount of unsunk allied surplus power and to the fortunes of the wider war more generally.

    So to be freer at home we must find a way to develop more surplus power that could potentially be applied abroad.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 12:46 am

  9. Soon what?

    Dale, Soon & Associates

    😉

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 12:53 am

  10. Excellent post, sl. Thanks.

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 1:07 am

  11. JC……

    “S(he’s) A Lawyer……

    S(he) aint no good Foryahhhhhh”

    (Waits: Bad Liver and Broken Heart)
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Yeah I make the exception too.

    As for Lincoln.

    Yes I know the mises.org people don’t like Lincoln.

    But I kind of dig that Lawyer. Though the consquences of his rise to the top were so awesomely bloody.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 1:13 am

  12. Great analysis, SL. Thanks.

    Not much being written about this on the leftie blogs. Ken Parish has covered an equally important case from the Sunshine State but, alas, couldn’t resist wheeling out the ‘nothing’s changed in Queensland’ cliche. These days the other states – including rule of law tramplers Victoria and New South Wales as well as Burkeland (WA) – make Queensland look like noble Camelot by comparison. The less said about the racist backwater Northern Territory the better – notwithstanding that judges up there are no longer letting off old men for raping children and beating them with boomerangs pursuant to “customary law”.

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 1:21 am

  13. The Bolta has done a reasonable job, CL, although he’s tripped up on the legal implications in spots.

    I haven’t seen any other write ups. I decided to do this case rather than the Doomadjee ruling – I’ve done quite a bit on Aboriginal issues on this blog (my partner is indigenous) and thought I’d better leave it alone for now. Besides, writing a case note is quite time consuming. And, as most lawyers can tell you, I’ve dicked with the format in this one so it becomes more readable journalism.

    Wonder if it’ll make Missing Link over at Troppo?

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 1:29 am

  14. C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 1:43 am

  15. Oh, not again, C.L.

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 2:02 am

  16. Interested in your take on the Palm Island case should you wish to post it, sl.

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 2:03 am

  17. Cl

    Let’s hope he makes it for the hearing along with the rest of those losers too.

    The families deserves an answer as to why the Australian head of government ignored the threats posed to those citizens.

    They’re a disgrace.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 2:05 am

  18. Rob?

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 2:06 am

  19. Aye, JC. They should drag that national disgrace Richard Woolcott in for questioning too.

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 2:11 am

  20. Am heading to Sydney tomorrow for work stuff followed by blogbash, skeptics stuff, publishing stuff etc. Will try to do something on Palm Island for the weekend.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 2:16 am

  21. “Bring this on too:
    ‘Subpoena Whitlam over Balibo’.”

    This is what happens when a naturally peaceful nation is insufficiently strong.

    Their OWN MEDIA AND POLITICIANS would BARELY notice our bodies as they arrived at the airport.

    You can look at it as individual faults of the government and its leaders.

    But there is something in-the-way-of-things here.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 2:17 am

  22. But I’m not making excuses for any individual in saying this.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 2:22 am

  23. C.L., I don’t agree with you about East Timor. We’ve argued this before. Those journalists should never have been there. Fretilin begged them to get out; even made them sign a document absolving Fretilin if the worst happened. Balibo the morning of 16th October 1975 was no place for anyone who wasn’t a soldier.

    Sorry, sl, badly OT.

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 2:27 am

  24. Yair, some discussion of freedom of speech and how to get rid of this pernicious blasphemy law would be nice, people.

    Just sayin.

    Be nice while I catch some zzzzs before heading to Sydney. Nighty-night all.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 2:31 am

  25. Nighty-night.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 2:38 am

  26. Rob.

    If those blood-thirsty monsters running that country and military feared us then they would respect us.

    Then the journalists would be alive. And the regimes behaviour more generally would have been more humane.

    GMB

    December 15, 2006 at 2:40 am

  27. SL

    Well we kind of have problem with getting rid of these laws seeing we don’t have constituional protections and need to rely on the good graces of the majoritarian elected government to do the right thing. Bracks has proved he can’t be trusted with this stuff.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 2:51 am

  28. Nice post. It was the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission that sent the ‘stooges’ not the Islamic Council. In other words, this was an organ of the state baiting Christians and using Moslems as its cats-paw.

    Sinclair Davidson

    December 15, 2006 at 7:15 am

  29. Its a deserved slap in the face for both Bracks and the islamic council – they should appeal and take it higher if they had the courage of their convictions.

    The Act reads like something out of USSR;

    A person must not, on the ground of the race of another person or class of
    persons, engage in conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for,
    or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons.

    ..the irony being that in upholding the Act the govt incited “serious contempt or severe ridicule” for both Bracks and the Islamic Council. Not that muslims deserve to be singled out for ridicule, other religious leaders supported the Act

    http://www.cathnews.com/news/503/121.php

    Back to watching reruns of Dave Allen

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 7:32 am

  30. SL, could you clarify (as reported elsewhere) that this ruling sets aside the original judgement by VCAT and that the case may now be returned to VCAT for a new decision?

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 8:10 am

  31. I was told that certain legal types known to be close to Sydney Anglicans warned the Victorian Government about this but they listened to anglican types down there who think Islam is better than christianity. Note certain witnesses.

    Having read the complete transcript of the proceedings of the two dannies I was left wondering why was the money wasted on this venture.

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 15, 2006 at 8:40 am

  32. JC

    You also like tax lawyers

    rog

    Yes, you are correct, the Court of Appeal has set aside the finding of the Tribunal and ordered a new hearing under a differently constituted Tribunal.

    SL

    Yes, we lawyers traditionally dislike tribunals, not least because they do not cleave to the rules of evidence and are overly informal. However, one can forgive these faults if the Tribunal is merely standing in the shoes of a decison maker, such as the Commissioner of Taxation, and making a finding based upon the facts. What I really find offensive is when Tribunals are allowed to interpret the law, as occurred in this case.

    Rococo Liberal

    December 15, 2006 at 8:45 am

  33. From today’s Herald Sun:

    The Islamic Council of Victoria was ordered to pay half the pastors’ legal fees.

    Waleed Aly, of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said the ruling was not a victory for anything and was only a decision on a legal technicality.

    “They haven’t said that the conclusion the tribunal reached was wrong: they’ve just got an issue with some of the (VCAT) reasonings,” Mr Aly said.

    If Justices Nettle, David Ashley and Marcia Neave had decided the pastors had not broken the law, they might have dispensed with the case altogether, he said.

    Amir

    December 15, 2006 at 9:17 am

  34. Waleed Aly needs to go back to law school and learn how to read a case. Short of doing the High Court’s job for them, this is a pretty comprehensive loss. Mind you, had I been counsel for Scot and Nalliah I’d have pushed for indemnity costs, or at least all costs on the standard basis.

    I didn’t know they were state stooges who did the secret recording, either. If anything, that makes it even worse. Two private bodies stoushing is one thing. Using the resources of the state against a (much smaller and weaker) private body is quite another.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 9:53 am

  35. They were not state employees or members of EOCV. They were Muslim converts who were told about the seminar by a Muslim who was working at the EOCV at the time. ICV then made the complaint to EOCV about the seminar and the rest is, as they say, history.

    Amir

    December 15, 2006 at 10:01 am

  36. Eeek, that’s really greasy, Amir. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in some totalitarian state – ie let’s shop mum & dad to the NKVD for saying life was better before the Revolution.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 10:04 am

  37. “Saltshakers” have been running a useful diary on this case. I visit it from time to time to watch progress on the case.

    http://www.saltshakers.org.au/html/P/265/

    But thanks Helen both for drawing our attention to the decision and your really excellent outline of the judgement.

    You appear to have scooped Ken Parish who is usually prompt in commenting on important court decisions. Obviously he’s been preoccupied with the (also very important) DPP intervention (or lack thereof) in the Palm Island case.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 11:50 am

  38. Dont under estimate that Court of Appeal finding; on the one hand they said that they were not able to judge if the Act was constitutional and on the other they said that the tribunal made the wrong judgement under the Act; the Brack govt and the VCAT are between a rock and a hard place.

    VCAT are to make a more proper finding , one that reflects the Court of Appeal ruling, on the same evidence. It seems like the Act is now sans balls and VCAT are on notice.

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 12:56 pm

  39. Whenever one lot of ignorant douchebags goes up against another I have a hard time caring about the result, and this case is no different.

    The defendants claimed that the ugly bits of Islam was in fact the essence of Islam – right to say what they felt etc. but if I was part of the flock so misdirected I’d be particularly pissed off (a wilful intolerance of sloppy leadership should give rise to a libertarian temperament I know, but reality keeps getting in the way). It’s a shame that the Firebugs don’t have self-correcting mechanisms and can’t differentiate between what’s stupid and what isn’t.

    Three cheers for the downing of bad law. Now for an understanding that Scotty & Nas aren’t necessarily the source of all (or even much) wisdom, and the Enlightenment need not be considered extinguished. They can do the martyrdom thing themselves, SL, any activism on your part (assuming you’re not part of their church) to that end is wasted.

    Andrew Elder

    December 15, 2006 at 1:51 pm

  40. Worthy, thoughtful and spot on comment, Andy, as always.

    You never miss a pothole if you see one on the road, do you doofus?

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 2:05 pm

  41. “The defendants claimed that the ugly bits of Islam was in fact the essence of Islam”

    Presumably Andrew has insights into what is the essence of Islam, but I have to confess I don’t. I’d probably have to learn to speak Arabic fluently as a preliminary to acquiring it if I was so motivated.

    But I have no doubt there are a great number of dingbats among Christians, some of whom cause mass deaths (eg the Jonestown mass suicide in USA, and some of them use violence towards abortion clinics). But most of them are pretty harmless – if you count a literal faith in creationism as harmless (generally it is). I’d rather be contaminated by these beliefs than be the victim of a Moslem bomber or beheader who believe the most outlandishly ugly bits of Islam are indeed the essence of that religion.

    There really is far more ugliness in Islam than in any of the other large religions.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 3:11 pm

  42. I meant the “practitioners of Islam” rather than “Islam”

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 3:13 pm

  43. Pro-“choice” advocates are far more violent.

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 3:27 pm

  44. Quite so, C.L. However I was comparing the behaviour of the various adherents of mainstream religion adherents, and making the point that you have to take compare quantity of violence perpetrated for any valid comparison. The Muslims win hands down.

    Abortion is of course a huge act of violence, but I’ll leave that until I see a relevant thread.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 3:40 pm

  45. Everyone:
    Good post …. Bad situation.

    I’m usually pretty tolerant but two grim thoughts came to mind
    {1] The old saying “A pox on both their houses”. and
    [2] Maybe Torquemada and Ximenes (and the Dominicans a few centuries before them) were on the right track about how to deal with religious opponents of all shapes, sizes and colours …. now, I’ve got the firewood and the matches so when’s the next auto-da-fe’ on?

    Graham Bell

    December 15, 2006 at 3:44 pm

  46. I’d probably have to learn to speak Arabic fluently as a preliminary to acquiring it if I was so motivated.

    No, what you need is to accept that there are a billion Muslims, and a very small percentage of them are violent. It is not whitewashing, nor is it political correctness to say that those Muslims who claim theirs is a religion of peace have a point. I would contend that their point, and their faith, is more worthy of respect than the small but equally irrelevant bunches of clowns who line up on opposite sides of this debate to bait each other. The cheeky teenager wearing a bin Laden Tshirt in Cabramatta or Preston is the equivalent, mentally and morally, to someone like Andrew Bolt.

    If you look at what Scotty and Nas actually said, you’d be confronted with a caricature that could not sustain any sort of civilisation for any period of time. They were doing this to advance Christianity – fair enough as far as it goes, but if you’re going to tell lies and build your (and others’) religious and social beliefs on a base of dishonesty, then you can hardly be considered a champion of free speech.

    I’d rather be contaminated by these beliefs than be the victim of a Moslem bomber or beheader who believe the most outlandishly ugly bits of Islam are indeed the essence of that religion.

    What a silly comparison this is. Either will kill you equally dead.

    Andrew Elder

    December 15, 2006 at 3:54 pm

  47. You’re right, WIIS. Only an amoral observer would compare the Pastor Dans of the contemporary world to the many killers and terrorists currently blighting Islam, the sick man of world religion.

    C.L.

    December 15, 2006 at 3:57 pm

  48. Andrew’s right about ‘small percentages’. The question, though, is how ‘small’ does the percentage have to be before we get worried. About one third of British Muslims sympathise with the July 7 suicide bombers. That’s a large percentage, though still a minority.

    The Nazis were never a majority either.

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 5:05 pm

  49. Rob, as you say, the meanings of “small” and “minority” are not even close. That the number of Muslims supporting violence is a minority is very questionable, but any reasonable quantification would admit to a substantial minority of them. Even your “third”, as you say, is a large percentage in anybody’s book.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 5:24 pm

  50. “It is not whitewashing, nor is it political correctness to say that those Muslims who claim theirs is a religion of peace have a point.”

    That claim is without any basis of merit.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 5:25 pm

  51. SL is right, Counsel for the Dannys should push for indemnity costs (i.e. actual costs rather than those assessed by the Court wjhich are always lower than the amount really paid to the lawyers).

    Rococo Liberal

    December 15, 2006 at 5:33 pm

  52. I’m not sure that I agree with Graham Bells sentiments, ‘catch the fire’ are found innocent of charges and he wishes they be struck down by a pox, hardly the view of a self confessed tolerator.

    Anyway, its “plague” not pox and the next line is;

    They have made worms’ meat of me

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 5:33 pm

  53. Certainly their practically universal wish to eliminate Jews from the face of the earth is Hitlerite violence at its worst.

    whyisitso

    December 15, 2006 at 5:34 pm

  54. Mercutio, right?

    Rob

    December 15, 2006 at 5:56 pm

  55. Andy Elder says:
    “The cheeky teenager wearing a bin Laden Tshirt in Cabramatta or Preston is the equivalent, mentally and morally, to someone like Andrew Bolt.”

    You total fucking idiot. The cheeky teenager is wearing the t-shirt because he was schooled to think that killing in mass is a good thing.

    Bolt, to my knowledge has never advocated that.

    You really are one demented piece of turd Andy.

    No wonder the Liberal party kicked you arse out the door, you animal.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 6:54 pm

  56. Oh really JC.

    FDB

    December 15, 2006 at 7:01 pm

  57. What is this connection FDB, is it the one where the communists advise that up to 1M will die in a civil war?

    At what point does the Bolta advocate or approve mass killing? (neatest correct answer wins a holiday for 2 at Umina)

    rog

    December 15, 2006 at 9:31 pm

  58. Yes, really, FDB. Bolt’s contention is that there would have been a civil war instigated by the communists that would have caused 500,000 dead. Incidently that kind of number is par for the course whenever there has been a communist takeover so it isn’t an extraordinary leap of faith to find that credible.

    You have no way of knowing whether bolt actually believes that. All one has to work work with are the facts of the arguments. Therefore you and the degenerate Elder ought to try at hose his facts.

    Elder gives moral equivalence to the young Muslim wearing a bin ladin T-shirt in the dumps of Sydney to Bolt arriving at some resonable assumptions about the conduct of the Chilean civll war if the communists had taken over.

    Elder is a degenerate flea rake whose moral compass is leading him in the wrong direction and you ought to know better.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 9:34 pm

  59. And more to the point, FDB, where does Bolt imply he supports mass murder and the killing of innocents like Bin Ladin and by extension the kid with the T-shirt and the the human flea rake Elder.

    Elder, I knew 8 people who died in the WTC. If you think a thug wearing a bin ladin T-shirt is amusing you may want to say that to me face to face.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 9:40 pm

  60. I am very surprised by the assessments of Andrew Elder and Graham Bell. I don’t care what these pastors said, whether this was a distortion or an accurate description of Islam.

    The issue is not whether what they said is good or bad. The issue is their freedom to say this even if it is bad. This is about freedom of speech. And from this perspective, the ruling is a victory for freedom of speech.

    Amir also probably thinks that the statements of the two pastors were misleading if not downright offensive. But he is quite clearly on the side of freedom in this debate.

    Steve Edwards said repeatedly that he wished two pastors be punished so the full absurd of the law will become apparent. By striking down the tribunal verdict but not the law as such the Court of Appeals did only half the job.

    Interested parties should read Steve’s excellent article http://www.cis.org.au/POLICY/autumn05/autumn05-6.htm

    PS Steve has also written a post about this.
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/pastors-will-keep-telling-truth-on-muslims/2006/12/14/1165685825233.html

    Boris

    December 15, 2006 at 9:57 pm

  61. Boris

    I don’t think the court can strike down the law.
    Dn’t be surpised by what Andy Elder says, he’s a dick.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 10:20 pm

  62. “I don’t think the court can strike down the law.”

    Of course not. I was silly. But I understand that the second point of the appeal was that the law was unconstitutional. Presumably the court could have experessed its opinion on this. Don’t know how it works.

    Boris

    December 15, 2006 at 10:26 pm

  63. Technically, the C of A could, but it’s not the done thing here in Australia. Constitutional rulings are usually the High Court’s domain, and other courts respect that.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 10:35 pm

  64. Sl

    The blaspemy laws were state. Could you bring a state law to the high court? I would have thougth state courts take care of state laws. No?

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 10:50 pm

  65. Not when they raise a federal issue. All courts are vested with their powers under Chapter III of the commonwealth constitution. Any queries as to the constitutionality of this law should really be dealt with by the High Court.

    skepticlawyer

    December 15, 2006 at 10:52 pm

  66. SL
    Is there anything in the constituion that even goes close to talking about free speech?

    also do you know the history of why we didn’t look to the US consitution to insert a bill of rights or the right to free speech. i am surprised the founders never thought about it, or more likely deliberately left this out.

    JC.

    December 15, 2006 at 11:07 pm

  67. Interesting that Steve Edwards has been invoked.

    Just sayin’

    FDB

    December 15, 2006 at 11:56 pm

  68. FDB: I don’t know what’s so special about my reference to Steve. If you have something to say, maybe you’d better comment on his article I linked to (it is now part of the reading material for UWA students).

    Boris

    December 16, 2006 at 12:09 am

  69. Yea, FDB, show some balls and explain why you you think steve edwards should not have written what he he did.

    Is it the piece you don’t like, If so explain why?

    Is it steve you don’t like?

    It’s pretty pathetic top leave a dropping like that without giving us a reasoned explaination

    Just sayin

    JC.

    December 16, 2006 at 12:12 am

  70. We have an ‘implied right’ of freedom of political communication – there are some comments in my case note and two leading cases are cited. Neave JA made the ruling on this point.

    The implication arises because the Constitution assumes a representative democracy, and you can’t have a democracy without people being allowed to spout off about politics. Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers didn’t insert a freedom of speech clause, even though they had the example of the US constitution before them.

    Instead, they relied on the strong ‘conventions’ that characterise Westminster democracies, and which have sustained freedoms relatively effectively in the UK. I’m not convinced this was wise, but at that time Australian lawmakers were still strongly linked to ‘the mother of parliaments’ – ie Great Britain.

    skepticlawyer

    December 16, 2006 at 5:00 am

  71. CL:
    >Pro-”choice” advocates are far more violent.

    Hey, CL,

    Via your link, you call the following actions “pro-choice”:

    1) the recent kidnapping of a Maine teenager by her parents to take her out of state for a forced abortion
    2) and the case of a Georgia mother who tried to make her daughter drink turpentine to cause her to have an abortion
    3) the case of a woman who used scissors to cut open another woman’s womb and steal her baby.

    CL, you do not seem to know what the phrase “pro-choice” means.

    I’ll tell you. It is the principle that a woman has the right to choose whether she has an abortion or not. Not the state, not her parents, not her priest, not a random psycho armed with scissors.

    In other words, “pro-choice” does not equal “enforced abortions”. None of the above acts are “pro-choice.” You clear on that now? Good.

    Likewise, the attempt to imply that these acts were carried out by pro-choice “advocates”, as if these were somehow political acts, equivalent to the violent political actions of the bomb-chucking pro-life advocacy groups, is just embarrassingly feeble.

    But given your obvious confusion the concept of “pro-choice” perhaps this is understandable.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 16, 2006 at 7:28 am

  72. Pro-choice is just a term invented by abortion advocates to make their killing beliefs sound “nice”.

    whyisitso

    December 16, 2006 at 7:40 am

  73. As is ‘pro-life’, whyisitso. All of it amounts to obfuscation, and all of it has no place on this thread. The last thing I need before meeting lots of you this evening is an abortion shit-fight.

    Thankyou.

    Also, I don’t know what’s happened to c8to’s recent comments plugin – it’s only showing 4 comments, instead of the usual dozen.

    c8to?

    skepticlawyer

    December 16, 2006 at 9:19 am

  74. Sorry Helen. I certainly don’t want to spoil your night. I’d go myself except my wife won’t let me, as the (very) old song goes. Besides I’d have to blow my cover.

    In respect to the inappropriate topic (for this thread) I did intend to refrain (see #44 above) but was responding to provocation. After all I’m only human. Sorry again!

    whyisitso

    December 16, 2006 at 9:55 am

  75. “FDB: I don’t know what’s so special about my reference to Steve.”

    Gawd, everyone’s so tetchy. That was a drunken throwaway line. Poorly explained, I’ll grant. Just thought it was interesting given his idolising of Pinochet that we haven’t heard from him lately.

    JC – don’t lecture me about leaving droppings. Steve’s an old friend of mine, so real problem with the man. He runs a pretty hard line, often for shock value, but this article is definitely one of his better efforts.

    FDB

    December 16, 2006 at 10:09 am

  76. Thanks, whyisitso. I was feeling a bit grumpy this morning. Am feeling much better now. Am off to a mate’s place for lunch, then the dinner & blogbash tonight. All good! Pity you can’t make it along.

    skepticlawyer

    December 16, 2006 at 10:49 am

  77. Boris [on 60] and Rog [on 52]:
    Don’t panic. I haven’t stacked the firewood on the quemadero just yet …. but the temptation to do so is powerful.

    It’s just that I am exasperated. I have no objection whatsoever to anyone holding strong religious views and expressing those views, even if I disagree strongly with them. Our society is the richer for having people stand up and challenge our assumptions.

    But where do you draw the line on fanaticism – Christian, Commercial Christian, Anti-Abortionist, Jewish, Islamic, Fake Islamic, Jihadist, Communist, Nazi, Calathumpian or whatever? Where do you draw the line on inciting actions that will harm others? Do you wait for people to be killed or injured. or for property and livlihoods to be destroyed?

    It’s my opinion that a society must protect its vulnerable members when that line is crossed.

    [Rog: thanks for the correction on the quote :-)]

    Graham Bell

    December 16, 2006 at 4:48 pm

  78. “where do you draw the line on fanaticism”
    ..by not saying “fanatiscim”

    The issue is freedom of speech.

    rog

    December 16, 2006 at 6:50 pm

  79. ps the phrase “A plague o’ both your houses” appears 3 times in R+J, as Rob noted Mercutio was the speaker.

    rog

    December 16, 2006 at 6:54 pm

  80. Codswallop, Daniel. The pro-“choice” movement and the constitutional garbage that is Roe vs Wade are the proximate and material cultural contexts for the significant violence committed against pregnant women. The perpetrators have been encouraged by Roe Wade Death Beasts (RWDBs) to believe that abortion is a morally neutral solution to their problems. It isn’t surprising that some men – comparably violent to the “doctors” who perform abortions – should assume that it’s no big deal to aggressively insist that their women exercise their “right” in such a way as solves their own annoying problem. Far more violence is committed by pro-“choice” advocates than pro-lifers. End of story.

    C.L.

    December 16, 2006 at 9:44 pm

  81. FDB
    Don’t lecture you about what?

    I’ll say whatever I like within reason and I certainly don’t need you to lecture me on what I can do.

    Couldn’t care less if steve is an old freind of yours. That didn’t come out in your first comment anyway. Take a hike and get back to spell check as you seem better at it.

    JC.

    December 17, 2006 at 12:26 am

  82. FDB if Steve is an old friend of yours perhaps you know well why Steve is not commenting a lot lately.

    He is in Vietnam and his access to the internet is patchy. Sometimes he can only access blogs on weekends and he apparently prefers to concentrate on his own blog. I would imagine it is easier, as he can prepare the post during weekdays and post when he has access. You can’t do this with comments.

    Sorry for meta

    Boris

    December 17, 2006 at 1:31 am

  83. CL:
    >The pro-”choice” movement and the constitutional garbage that is Roe vs Wade are the proximate and material cultural contexts for the significant violence committed against pregnant women.

    Firstly, the 2002 US Government Accounting Office report on the subject states “There is no current national estimate measuring the prevalence of violence during pregnancy” and states that the various studies are all inconclusive. (It does, however note a CDC study that suggests “for most abused
    women, physical violence does not seem to be initiated or to increase during pregnancy.”)

    So your assertion clearly relies on data straight from The Dept. of Making Shit Up.

    >The perpetrators have been encouraged by Roe Wade Death Beasts (RWDBs) to believe that abortion is a morally neutral solution to their problems.

    If that is the case, you should also be able to provide plenty of hard evidence showing the pro-choice movement “encouraging” perpetrators to commit such acts as you describe ie: kidnapping, poisoning, psychotic scissor-wielding caesarean sections etc.

    Well, let’s see it.

    >It isn’t surprising that some men – comparably violent to the “doctors” who perform abortions – should assume that it’s no big deal to aggressively insist that their women exercise their “right” in such a way as solves their own annoying problem.

    Here you compare doctors who perform on abortions on women who have voluntarily requested the operation , and kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who violently force such an action upon their victims, thus trying to imply that they are morally equivalent. Nothing could illustrate the spuriousness of your case better than this plainly dishonest comparison.

    CL, is it true? Are you really the sort of person who will say anything to defend your chosen beliefs?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 7:17 am

  84. …kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who violently force such an action upon their victims.

    Thanks for confirming what the US Government Accounting Office has no national estimate about.

    C.L.

    December 17, 2006 at 9:27 am

  85. I’ll take that as a “yes” to my previous question.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 10:18 am

  86. Not at all. I’m just grateful that you agreed with me: “kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who violently force such an action upon their victims.”

    C.L.

    December 17, 2006 at 10:48 am

  87. I should have added that last week pro-“choice” Congressmen in the US voted down a proposal that would have required women at least 20 weeks pregnant to be informed that abortion causes pain to their unborn babies. Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, points out that those who opposed the humane initiative “will have to explain why they favor anti-pain laws for animals used for research or food, but not for unborn humans.” Of course, NARAL – the veritable NRA of the American left – and a majority of Democrats also support partial birth abortion (aka infanticide).

    These are two more illustrations of the chilling acceptance of violence to be found among pro-abortionists.

    C.L.

    December 17, 2006 at 11:07 am

  88. CL:
    >Not at all. I’m just grateful that you agreed with me…

    Poor Lad, reduced to PeeWee Herman-style arguments within 3 posts…;-)

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 11:54 am

  89. Well nice bail-out attempt. You argued there was no evidence for the existence of people you went on to describe as “kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who violently force such an action upon their victims.”

    Straight from The Dept. of Inadvertent Capitulations.

    C.L.

    December 17, 2006 at 1:36 pm

  90. CL:
    >You argued there was no evidence for the existence of people you went on to describe as “kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who violently force such an action upon their victims.”

    Who has argued that such people do not exist? In fact I was disputing your assertion as to the cause of such violence. Let me remind you of it:

    You wrote:
    “The pro-”choice” movement and the constitutional garbage that is Roe vs Wade are the proximate and material cultural contexts for the significant violence committed against pregnant women.”

    Obviously here you are asserting a causal relation between legalised abortion in the USA and “significant violence” against pregnant women. But, as I explained, there are in fact no accurate measures of violence rates against pregnant women in the USA. Ergo, your causal assertion can only be straight out of the DoMSU. Thus also the DofIC need not be notified.

    Now we’ve got that straight, let’s get a little additional clarity. Did you really and truly mean to say that doctors who perform on abortions on women who have voluntarily requested the operation are morally equivalent to kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who force such an action upon their victims i.e. that they are “comparably violent”? Or was this just a slip of the keyboard?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 2:56 pm

  91. “Did you really and truly mean to say that doctors who perform on abortions on women who have voluntarily requested the operation are morally equivalent to kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who force such an action upon their victims i.e. that they are “comparably violent”?”

    I can’t speak, and don’t need to, speak for The Currency Lad, Daniel.

    But if he’s saying that such doctors are morally similar to assassins performing the role of contract killer (as per Cosa Nostra, etc), then he really has a valid point.

    whyisitso

    December 17, 2006 at 3:27 pm

  92. W:
    >But if (CL)’s saying that such doctors are morally similar to assassins performing the role of contract killer (as per Cosa Nostra, etc), then he really has a valid point.

    CL seems to be comparing forced abortions, such as the following:

    1) the recent kidnapping of a Maine teenager by her parents to take her out of state for a forced abortion
    2) and the case of a Georgia mother who tried to make her daughter drink turpentine to cause her to have an abortion
    3) the case of a woman who used scissors to cut open another woman’s womb and steal her baby.

    …to voluntary abortions, performed by doctors in clinics with the mother’s permission! He claims the “doctors” – the quotes are CL’s – are “comparably violent” to the above. That’s the context of the discussion.

    It’s such a nasty, ridiculous claim I find it hard to believe he is seriously making it.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 3:36 pm

  93. No, Daniel. “Ergo” nothing more than that no dependable record exists about the phenomenon with that bureacracy. The CDC assertion, meanwhile, demonstrates that women already suffering abuse may not receive any more abuse while pregnant. That proves almost exactly nothing.

    Thank you for again acknowledging “the kidnappers, poisoners and psychotics who force such an action upon their victims.” Thanks also to the officials of DInCap.

    Of course “doctors” poisoning healthy babies, ripping their limbs off and stabbing them in the head with scissors are morally equivalent to the perpetrators of pro-“choice” violence or, indeed, others forms of unjustifiable violence.

    No question. No doubt.

    C.L.

    December 17, 2006 at 4:41 pm

  94. I wrote:
    >It’s such a nasty, ridiculous claim I find it hard to believe CL is seriously making it.

    Well at least we’ve cleared that up.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 17, 2006 at 5:08 pm

  95. “Of course “doctors” poisoning healthy babies…”

    You mean fetuses, right?

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 3:08 am

  96. CL, Let’ make it even more clear. Are you against the right of women to have abortion?

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 3:09 am

  97. BTW I shall remind both sides of this debate that extreme methods (including violence) of fringe elements on both sides of the fence do not in any way help establish which side is right or wrong. This should be decided based solely on the merit of their respective arguments rather than the methods used by fringe elements to advance these arguments. People who attack abortion doctors do not represent the Pope, for example.

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 3:14 am

  98. Boris:
    >This should be decided based solely on the merit of their respective arguments rather than the methods used by fringe elements to advance these arguments.

    This is what I’m examining, Boris.

    CL’s argument is that a doctor who performs an abortion on a fetus in a clinic at the voluntary request of a woman is morally equivalent to a psycho who attacks a woman and gives her a forced caesarean with a pair of scissors in order to steal her baby. Both the psycho and the doctor are also, in CL’s world, equally representative of the pro-choice movement.

    The ‘merit’ of this argument you can decide for yourself.

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 3:51 am

  99. Boris asks: “Are you against the right of women to have abortion? ”

    That is a meaningless question. As no such right exists, it is ahrd to be for it or against it.

    Rococo Liberal

    December 18, 2006 at 8:28 am

  100. It is also difficult for me to type well on Monday mornings

    Rococo Liberal

    December 18, 2006 at 8:29 am

  101. You mean fetuses, right?

    Most pregnant women refer to their unborn child or their unborn baby. I can’t recall ever hearing a woman talk about her fetus. The word “baby” tends to intimidate some people. That’s because it is more human than it is scientific and therefore makes it very difficult for the pro-“choice” brigade to promote the fiction of a conveniently sub-human entity in utero.

    CL’s argument is that a doctor who performs an abortion on [kills] a fetus in a clinic at the voluntary request of a woman is morally equivalent to a psycho who attacks a woman and gives her a forced caesarean with a pair of scissors in order to steal her baby.

    That’s not what I said but in the comparison you provide, the “psycho” has the excuse of mental illness or diminished responsibility and – according to you – wants to “steal” rather than kill the baby. Such a person wouldn’t be morally equivalent to a “doctor” who killed a baby in uetero. He’d actually be less morally culpable.

    Are you against the right of women to have abortion?

    Should read: “Are you against the so-called ‘right’ of women to have abortion?”

    Absolutely.

    C.L.

    December 18, 2006 at 9:29 am

  102. CL:
    >He’d actually be less morally culpable.

    Good, glad we’re getting your thinking right out there.

    Now, what about the aborting mother’s culpability? Up there with the doc? Got to be worse, surely. After all, she’s instructing and employing the ‘hitman.’

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 9:41 am

  103. Just to clarify further, CL, are you against the so-called ‘right’ of women (or men) to use contraception?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 9:45 am

  104. I would like to be lumped in with CL please.

    I would prefer babies to be deliverd not killed

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 18, 2006 at 10:22 am

  105. Jesus, this abortion caper just won’t go away, will it? Why I never post on this topic – it just brings out the worst in people. Including you, CL, and you’re one of my favourite commenters.

    FTR I really enjoy having you at Catallaxy (especially as we get you all to ourselves now that LP managed to get their panties in a bunch and ban you).

    skepticlawyer

    December 18, 2006 at 11:10 am

  106. Hey,

    I can’t comment there unless I use a moniker they approve of which means I am banned as well

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 18, 2006 at 11:38 am

  107. Are they changing your moniker every time? I thought that was just a one off. Bloody Hell.

    skepticlawyer

    December 18, 2006 at 11:49 am

  108. No,

    I canot comment unless I agree to the moniker they approve of!!

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 18, 2006 at 11:59 am

  109. Good, glad we’re getting your thinking right out there.

    Don’t be a smart-arse, Daniel. It only shows you’re crashing and burning. You’ve given me the example of a “psycho” – a mentally ill person – and asked me to draw conclusions about his or her moral culpability. By definition, a mentally ill person may argue diminished responsibility and in the kind of case you cite I think we can agree that the perpetrator would be literally sick.

    Your thinking includes belief that so-called doctors can murder a baby in a late term abortion because of a bogus “right”. Such “doctors” are unquestionably more morally culpable than the mentally ill person you’ve chosen to use as an example.

    C.L.

    December 18, 2006 at 12:24 pm

  110. A question for Daniel: do you support a mandated policy of informing women that abortion may cause their unborn babies pain or not?

    C.L.

    December 18, 2006 at 12:35 pm

  111. Okay Homer, that’s really screwy. I’ve got a mental image of you signing an agreement along the lines of ‘I, Homer Paxton, hereby agree that I shall comment on said weblog hereafter as…’

    Although they’d probably find a lawyer more into prolix drafting than me.

    skepticlawyer

    December 18, 2006 at 12:43 pm

  112. CL:
    >A question for Daniel: do you support a mandated policy of informing women that abortion may cause their unborn babies pain or not?

    If it was a well established medical fact – say to the level that smoking is linked with cancer – then clearly I would support public notification, just like with cigarettes. If not, not.

    Simple.

    Now CL, back to my question: is the mother more culpable than the doctor?
    Because according to you, the doctor performing the abortion on the voluntary patient is in fact morally equivalent (ie “comparably violent”) to someone performing a forced abortion on an involuntary patient!

    So if that’s how bad the doctor is, the mother who instructs him to abort her is surely in principle worse, no?

    (And I assume you are against the “so-called ‘right’” of women or men to use contraception too?)

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 1:16 pm

  113. You’re welcome to call yourself whatever moniker you want Homer, as long as it’s not Moniker Lewd-kinky

    Jason Soon

    December 18, 2006 at 1:30 pm

  114. Homer’s banning is the only banning I approve of.

    His monikers are so irritating that it’s not strictly speaking banning him.

    It’s actually a humane action to prevent people from being subjected to moniker abuse.

    JC.

    December 18, 2006 at 2:27 pm

  115. …are you against the so-called ‘right’ of women (or men) to use contraception?

    Ah, yes. This is no doubt leading to the hackneyed ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ non sequitur switcheroo by which abortion supporters try to compare the lives of unborn babies to gametes with a view to “winning” the argument by sheer force of Pythonesque guilt by association. Always a sign of desperation.

    What I wrote, Daniel, is this:

    Of course “doctors” poisoning healthy babies, ripping their limbs off and stabbing them in the head with scissors are morally equivalent to the perpetrators of pro-”choice” violence or, indeed, others forms of unjustifiable violence.

    Absolutely true.

    Now, having admitted that unborn babies have the same rights as children, adolescents and adults (who are targeted for cigarette health warnings), will you now admit that a human being in utero with rights should not be killed? Or do you persist with your belief that – in essence – jamming scissors into the head of a fully developed baby is morally akin to de-heading a prawn at a barbeque?

    Do you also support the “right” of women to kill off female children in utero? If so, why the misogyny?

    C.L.

    December 18, 2006 at 2:52 pm

  116. CL:
    >Now, having admitted that unborn babies have the same rights as children, adolescents and adults (who are targeted for cigarette health warnings)…

    Not at all. You’re confused. The public information would be for the mother, obviously. Fetuses can’t read, you know! And it would only perhaps be necessary should it be proven that fetuses experience some form pain. But, even if this was the case, and it is not, experiencing some form of pain is not a sufficient test to make an organism officially human, obviously. However I would certainly support the mother being informed if this was the case, as it may change her mind.

    It is after all her decision.

    >Or do you persist with your belief that – in essence – jamming scissors into the head of a fully developed baby is morally akin to de-heading a prawn at a barbeque?

    But I do not make that claim. A fetus at 10 weeks is not at all equivalent to a fully developed baby. It is highly dubious that it even feels pain. This idea seems to stem from your earlier confusion that fetuses can read public health information.

    >This is no doubt leading to the hackneyed ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ non sequitur switcheroo…

    No, the issue I was trying to establish is just how much of the gamut of people’s reproductive choices you think should be prosecutable. At least you seem to be stopping short of contraception, which is something.

    You are stopping short of saying contraception should be illegal, no?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 4:59 pm

  117. This would probably make the both of you disgusted in one way or another.

    Life begins at conception, but a woman has the inalienable right to choose.

    Mark Hill

    December 18, 2006 at 5:11 pm

  118. What Mark said (basically the Levitt and Dubner argument).

    Yep, the abortion munsters are eating my free speech thread…

    skepticlawyer

    December 18, 2006 at 5:20 pm

  119. “Life begins at conception, but a woman has the inalienable right to choose.”

    Thats contradictory.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 5:30 pm

  120. No it’s not, Graeme, it’s just ruthless.

    skepticlawyer

    December 18, 2006 at 5:44 pm

  121. SL:
    >Yep, the abortion munsters are eating my free speech thread…

    Sorry, but sometimes one has to call impolitely call bullshit.

    Firstly CL asserted(43) that pro-choice advocates are far more violent than anti-abortion activists.

    To support this, he linked to a piece that described a series of forcible abortions, where the victims had been variously kidnapped, poisioned, and cut open with a pair of scissors to have their baby stolen.

    At first I thought he simply did not know what “pro-choice” meant.

    Now it seems he really believes that the aforesaid crimes are morally equivalent – and possibly even morally superior – to a doctor performing a legal abortion on a woman with her consent!

    Anyone care to state the incredibly obvious here, other than just me?

    Daniel Barnes

    December 18, 2006 at 6:06 pm

  122. “Anyone care to state the incredibly obvious here, other than just me?”

    Barnes. You aren’t taking into account the fact that for a certain third party the procedure is always compulsary.

    “Anyone care to state the incredibly obvious here, other than just me?”

    I just did.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 8:20 pm

  123. “Anyone care to state the incredibly obvious here, other than just me?”

    SL did. Mark did. Now I do too.

    I wonder why CL brought about these rare cases of extreme violence against women when he thinks a regular abortion is as bad or even worse.

    Actually I know. He knows that very few people will share his extreme views on abortion but many will obviously share his indignation against forced abortions.

    His evasion of the question of mother’s responsibility and a sudden emphasis on late term abortion apeak volumes.

    Good Australian leaders acrsoss the political spectrum are a bit more sensible on this than CL.

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 9:25 pm

  124. Ok they are not the same crime of course.

    And for my part I would want women to have some time to make their minds up.

    But I think that at the start of any abortion debate people ought to say at what age the unborn child should get rights of personhood.

    And the doctrine that these rights are passed to him or her via the passage through the magical pussy at nine months is just untenable and an invitation to barbarism.

    Whereas as a legal matter to say that these rights come at conception would mean nasty back-yard abortions and a great loss of liberty to some of our girls.

    So I would say that the growing childs rights increase as each day goes by. And that they are neglgible in the first two weeks in comparison to the liberty of the Mother.

    And so I don’t see any conflict of interest early on in the pregnancy from a LEGAL perspective. I think the rights of the Mother ought to be paramount early on.

    How early on?

    Well thats what we ought to be debating. And the failure to get this far is why the debate is always deadlocked.

    Whereas down the track the matter is somewhat different. The length of time the Mother must carry the child is lessening.

    The lines of young couples wishing to adopt loom. And the childs rights ought not be treated with contempt merely because he or she is defenseless.

    When I think of this subject I like to think of what Jesus said to Judas.

    “What you must do….. Do quickly.”

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 9:27 pm

  125. CL makes a good point.

    In that we have to compare like with like.

    If you take a tiny tiny handfull of militant anti-abortionists and you claim that anti-abortionists are violent…

    Well that cannot be taken seriously once we see what the pro-abortionists do.

    For starters there are many more violent pro-abortionists around.

    And they committ a great deal more acts of bloody barbarism.

    And I think CL made that point and its not fair to make claims that there was more to it then that.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 9:31 pm

  126. “No it’s not, Graeme, it’s just ruthless.”

    Yes well thats our girls for you.

    They ARE ruthless if you dig deep enough.

    And we still like them for some reason. Perhaps even for that very reason.
    Just like THEY dig those laconic sadists, cut-throats and torturers that go by such names as Tuppence, Tiddles and Pussy-Claws.

    “The female of the species is more deadly then the male”

    http://www.potw.org/archive/potw96.html

    This is not something we ought to forget when we talk about this subject.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 9:44 pm

  127. There’s a lot of fudging with terminology, pro-lifers say that human life begins at conception and that it should be awarded the rights of a human being to life whilst pro-choicers say that the rights of the woman are paramount.

    rog

    December 18, 2006 at 9:52 pm

  128. Yes, Helen, I’ve never seen a thread change its subject so completely. So I’m afraid you’ve lost control of it, as you yourself admit. In hindsight you’d probably have been better starting a new thread without any input from yourself (as you don’t want to discuss it), transfer all comments from here to the new thread, and let it rip.

    I was in on the early part of it but intended to respect your request on Saturday, but to no avail. I have been following the debate and I find myself in almost total agreement with The Currency Lad.

    whyisitso

    December 18, 2006 at 10:23 pm

  129. GMB:
    “But I think that at the start of any abortion debate people ought to say at what age the unborn child should get rights of personhood.

    And the doctrine that these rights are passed to him or her via the passage through the magical pussy at nine months is just untenable and an invitation to barbarism.”

    Thank you GMB. This in my opinion is the question at the heart of the abortion debate, and until it is resolved we won’t progress beyond the finger pointing rage amply exemplified here.

    But GMB’s “So I would say that the growing childs rights increase as each day goes by. And that they are negligible in the first two weeks in comparison to the liberty of the Mother.” appears to be saying that human life starts sometime after the first two weeks after conception but before birth. Perhaps this line should be developed further. I really can’t see the logic of it at all.

    whyisitso

    December 18, 2006 at 10:29 pm

  130. On this issue GMB is advocating a middle line. This is unusual if not unprecedented.

    My position is very close to his.

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 10:37 pm

  131. “Perhaps this line should be developed further. I really can’t see the logic of it at all.”

    Ultimately I would define life the same at the beginning and the end.

    That is on the basis of a pulse and brain-waves. Which shows up at 19 days or so.

    But that would be way too harsh for the girls at this point. And so it would be more that the childs rights started at about nothing before that and slowly increased.

    Now the thing is we usually go outwards from metaphysics to more surface subjects. And legal questions are a sort of surface issue.

    For me as an atheist, this subject is a little different.

    We have to make a legal punt and then work around it. It don’t think metaphysics gives us the answer.

    So in this one issue and few others I would put the legal decision at the centre of things.

    And build everything else around that decision.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 10:54 pm

  132. “So in this one issue and few others I would put the legal decision at the centre of things.”

    No this is putting the cart before the horse. We have to resolve the ethical question first. Then perhaps we decide whether or not the law should get involved at all. There are plenty of ethical matters the law stays out of, and rightly so.

    “the childs rights started at about nothing before that and slowly increased” I see it rather differently. As soon as a child is deemed “human” it has 100% human rights ethically. If it’s not human, it’s a lump of protoplasm with zero ethical rights. All or nothing.

    whyisitso

    December 18, 2006 at 11:08 pm

  133. “As soon as a child is deemed “human” it has 100% human rights ethically.”

    And when is it deemed human? And who “deems”?

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 11:15 pm

  134. Daniel, I have never said the perpetrators of violence against women are “morally superior” to abortionists. Exclamation marks and lies won’t help your disintegrating argument. You gave me the example of a mentally ill “psycho” and asked if the actions of such a mentally ill “psycho” are comparable to the actions of an abortionist. I replied that such a mentally ill person may at least have an excuse for his homicidal behaviour with scissors. A “doctor” wielding scissors with homocidal intent – during the commission of an infanticide which you refuse to condemn – has no such excuse.

    More generally, there is no moral difference between the violence perpetrated by abortion “doctors” and – as I wrote – “pro-‘choice’ violence or, indeed, others forms of unjustifiable violence.”

    Absolutely true.

    The health information regarding the pain felt by babies in utero isn’t meant for the perusal of those babies, no. It is, however, meant for their benefit. In the news today are proposals for labels to be placed on all alcoholic beverages for the protection of babies in utero. The latter won’t read the labels but the labels are intended for their health and well-being.

    Also from that report:

    A new documentary, In The Womb, using unique 4D technology is now available and tracks the development of the foetus in-utero from fertilisation to birth as well as showing the impact of smoking and excess alcohol on unborn children.

    One has to assume that vacuuming the child’s brains out and crushing his or her skull will also cause an “impact”. I suggest all abortion clinics be required to display huge store-front banners acknowledging that their “doctors” are health hazards.

    Daniel has evaded – for reasons of embarrassment – the question of how abortion constitutes a gender-specific holocaust in some countries. Disgraceful mysogyny but not unexpected.

    And for my part I would want women to have some time to make their minds up.

    Yes indeed, Bird. Such a “cooling off” proposal has been made in Britain and is currently in the news. Naturally, pro-“choice” zealots are against the initiative.

    Tory MP Nadine Dorries also wants the abortion time limit cut from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. She explains what she rightly calls the “barbaric” method of homicide being practiced:

    “Many people are not aware that in order for a late abortion to take place for social reasons, foeticide must first take place; this process can take up to two days and involves a lethal injection being administered into the foetal heart via a cannular through the mother’s abdominal wall.

    “When a doctor is sure the foetal heart has stopped, the dead foetus is delivered on day two using forceps…

    “How can it possibly be right that on one hospital ward we have doctors working to save the life of a baby born at 22 weeks, yet on another a doctor is aborting one of the same gestation”?

    Indeed.

    Naturally, pro-“choice” zealots are against the time-limit initiative too.

    The fact is, then, the case for abortion is rapidly falling apart – only Luddites and bio-ethical flat-earthers believe babies in utero are morally neutral clumps of cells. In Queensland,

    Under section 313 (2), it is crime to unlawfully assault a pregnant woman and destroy the life of, do grievous bodily harm to, or transmit a serious disease to, “the child” before its birth. The penalty for this new offence is life imprisonment.

    [NB: Scare quotes around the child courtesy of Children By Choice].

    I’m not suggesting anything extreme, Boris. I’m just insisting that people obey the law. Destroying, harming or poisoning a child in utero is illegal.

    In conclusion, I haven’t evaded anything, Daniel. Of course women can be morally culpable for the abortions they have. You seem to have a patronising notion of child-women who are not culpable for anything. Equally morally culpable are the husbands and boyfriends who encourage, cooperate with, finance or permit abortions. I would even tend to argue that they are often more culpable because it is their selfishness or indifference that so often forces women to do something they may well regard as abhorrent.

    The law is becoming more oriented towards the protection of a “child”, as are health initiatives of several varieties. There is very little social opprobrium for single mothers today, far more financial and other support, historically unprecedented safety in delivery, a multitude of people eager to adopt, and tremendous wealth in the country to support our girls and women and stand by them. Abortion is a scandalous Dickensian throwback to an earlier, more brutish, age – though to be fair to that era’s denizens, they weren’t nearly so obsessed with death as today’s pro-“choice” fanatics.

    C.L.

    December 18, 2006 at 11:39 pm

  135. “No this is putting the cart before the horse. We have to resolve the ethical question first.”

    Well yes that would be the normal thing as I explained. Normally you would work from the metaphysics to the ethics to the legal.

    But I don’t believe that we are given a clear answer here.

    As an eventual thing we might aim at the lining up of life at both ends as being defined as where the human being has a pulse and brain-waves. But that would be too harsh right now.

    But we could work towards it.

    You can pass laws where the schedule for reducing the cutoff is hard-wired into the law thats just been passed.

    Or I suspect you can. I don’t see why not.

    “As soon as a child is deemed “human” it has 100% human rights ethically.”

    I cannot really buy that.

    To set the cutoff is inevitably going to involve some sort of arbitrariness.

    But this would make it more arbitrary to set such a harsh cutoff.

    The killing of the child at 8 months ought to be a much more serious matter then the killing of a child at 2 months.

    The conflict of interest between Mother and Child may be great at 2 weeks.

    But at 8 months it is not so great at all.

    Because of this I think a phase-in approach is far more appropriate.

    GMB

    December 18, 2006 at 11:42 pm

  136. “Destroying, harming or poisoning a child in utero is illegal.”

    So are you suggesting that in Australia today abortions are illegal? Any statutes or precedents?

    Boris

    December 18, 2006 at 11:56 pm

  137. I think he’s saying that there are laws that if consistently applied would mean that abortion was indeed illegal.

    And we should clean up these legal inconsistencies with some despatch even if we face no clear way of sorting out various philosophical differences.

    GMB

    December 19, 2006 at 12:15 am

  138. In my book the law is fine as it stands. If CL does not like it he can vote for one of the parties that advocates his point of view (if there are any) or start his own party, or perhaps go live in a country where the laws reflect his point of view.

    You see GMB, if your pragmatic argument about back yard abotion does not bother CL the least. And he says his views are not extreme. If they are not extreme how come none of the parties of note in this country supports this point of view?

    Boris

    December 19, 2006 at 12:32 am

  139. I will not dignify an abortion shitfight with a separate thread. This is no reflection on anyone else, just something that I’ve already formed a view on. Like capital punishment, it excites extreme expressions (and extreme actions), and people are simply unwilling to see the other person’s point of view.

    I have no trouble with abortion, have had one myself (at 15), and am quite happy to use all my considerable skills (as both martial artist and shooter) to take on anyone who disagrees with me (if they disagree with me violently). I’m nasty enough to win most of those fights, of course.

    I am a libertarian. Libertarians are about choice. People are welcome to argue about this issue until the cows come home, but I will not dignify the issue with a post. If you want to have a shitfight here and turn my free speech thread into another banking thread, just remember that (unlike the banking thread), you will likely prove nothing, learn nothing and teach nothing.

    That is all.

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 12:50 am

  140. But you are dropping the context that here we debate how things ought to be.

    And the support of democracy is seldom questioned.

    CL ought to continue to make his case.

    See how that British MP wanted to drop the cutoff from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

    If I were in her position I’d probably want to drop the cutoff one day every month so until we got the cutoff down to three weeks.

    You say my approach is a pragmatic approach.

    But I think I’m taking a moral approach.

    We don’t leave out the Mother when we take an ethical approach. We don’t leave out the baby either. Or the law. Or our knowledge that barbarism rides behind every cloud like the four horseman waiting to seize their chance.

    GMB

    December 19, 2006 at 12:54 am

  141. SL, on the contrary, I learned quite a lot today. I thought there are no people in Australia who openly advocate criminalising all abortions. I was wrong. I also learned an intelligent way to address the issue (provided by GMB).

    BTW I will have no problem you shutting down this conversation and coming back to the original topic. That was an interesting one indeed.

    Boris

    December 19, 2006 at 12:57 am

  142. I’m loathe to shut down any thread – it offends my libertarian sensibilities. I am cheesed off that people I like (you know who you are, CL) took my free speech thread off topic. However, if I can trust you all to moderate the swearing and stupidity, I will let it go on. Graeme has been very good on this score and I expect people to follow his lead (that includes you, CL).

    What I won’t wear is people casting aspersions on the morality of women who have abortions. I’m one of those women. I know I made the right choice, and I’m very happy with my position now. My choice was made for largely economic reasons, and I simply won’t cop people playing amateur psychologist. I find it personally offensive, and as it’s my thread I reserve the right to turn off comments (ie shut the whole thing down) if anyone starts pretending to analyse something about which they know nothing.

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 1:24 am

  143. …statutes or precedents?

    Judge McGuire in R v Bayliss and Cullen (1986), notwithstanding that Bayliss and Cullen were found not guilty:

    It would be wrong indeed to conclude that [R v] Bourne [1939] equates to carte blanch. It does not. On the contrary, it is only in exceptional cases that the doctrine can lawfully apply. This must be clearly understood. The law in this State has not abdicated its responsibility as a guardian of the silent innocence of the unborn. It should rightly use its authority to see that abortion on whim or caprice does not insidiously filter into our society. There is no legal justification for abortion on demand.

    Most abortions in Australia today are indeed technically illegal because very few have anything to do with the health of the mother or are based on any truly reasonable assessment of economic and social factors that may cause damage to the mother’s health. The erratic matrix of statutes on abortion, child destruction, homicide etc is utterly contradictory on the subject at hand.

    As things stand in Australia today (generally speaking and to the best of my knowledge), killing a baby in utero cannot lead to a homicide charge. However, if an abortion doesn’t work and the child is born alive, prosecution is possible. Similarly, when a child in utero is stabbed when its mother is stabbed, is born alive and subsequently dies of its injuries, the perpetrator is liable to a homicide charge (the Western Australian case Martin v. The Queen). The ludicrous situation therefore exists whereby a child attacked in utero only has the legal rights of a person if it is born alive but subsequently dies. I note that NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation and the ACLU opposed the US Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Even if a baby in utero was killed in the commission of a violent attack on the mother, they didn’t want any separate legal recognition of the unborn child’s personhood. Sick stuff.

    You see GMB, if your pragmatic argument about back yard abotion does not bother CL the least. [?]

    Backyard abortions, like surgery abortions, constitute the immoral taking of life. Where have I said that backyard abortions do not “bother” me, Boris? However, the spectre of the backyard abortion – like Daniel’s ill-advised recourse to the Monty Python stratagem – is simply a polemical device used to shut down debate and I have no problem in telling you that I regard its deployment as scare-mongering waffle.

    I would have thought a free speech thread was just the place for free speech. I didn’t introduce the subject of abortion but I did object to anti-abortion violence being cited as the example par excellence of how our culture has within its nature the mirror image of Islam’s propensity to violence. I argued that a better example of our culture’s mirror image of Islamic violence would be the violence committed by those in favour of abortion and – later – the perpetrators of abortion themselves.

    I absolutely stand by these arguments.

    I too have learned a lot. I thought there would be very few progressives in favour of such heinous evocations of Dr Mengele as late-term abortions (aka infanticide, murder).

    But I was wrong.

    Incidentally Boris, I couldn’t care less what a majority of Australians believes. Not long ago, a majority believed Aborigines shouldn’t vote and shouldn’t be counted as persons in the census.

    C.L.

    December 19, 2006 at 1:36 am

  144. Off-topic is off-topic, CL. I wrote a post about the Catch the Fire case, not abortion.

    Remember that you are all continuing to pursue this line of argument at my pleasure and I reserve the right to shut the whole caper down for the reasons cited above.

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 1:52 am

  145. Guys
    SL has nicely asked if we can get back on topic- Free Speech. She deserves respect as this post is her property. Let’s do the right thing here.

    JC.

    December 19, 2006 at 1:52 am

  146. You are very smart SL as usual. I would like to meet you one day…

    Boris

    December 19, 2006 at 1:54 am

  147. Ta, Boris. You should have come to the blogbash, although for some reason I seem to recall you’re not in Sydney…

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 1:58 am

  148. Yes, I am in Perth. That’s why I was at the WACA Saturday instead.

    Boris

    December 19, 2006 at 2:07 am

  149. You certainly have that right, SL. But do take note of who introduced the subject of abortion and violence and who sought an inter-thread debate about it 30 comments and 16 hours later.

    Also, I don’t need to follow anybody’s lead on “swearing and stupidity” – having been guilty of neither.

    Adios.

    C.L.

    December 19, 2006 at 2:28 am

  150. OK I plead guilty to saying the “A” word first in #41. But it wasn’t in the context at all of discussing the ethics of abortion. This came later when my mention of abortion in the context of dingat violent religious adherents and comparing the relatively tiny incidence of present-day violence by Christians with the generalised violence committed by Muslims. And this was within the overall context of the original topic.

    I have strong views on abortion as does CL, GMB and Boris. I guess since C.L. closed his own blog there’s very little opportunity to discuss the topic in non-Left blogs.

    I confess my sins about continuing the topic however and in respect to Helen, I’ll lay off now. I hope you all do likewise.

    whyisitso

    December 19, 2006 at 7:54 am

  151. I think this rather proves the point, that with free speech reasonable outcomes are achievable.

    rog

    December 19, 2006 at 9:58 am

  152. Thanks very much everyone, and yes rog, I agree with you.

    You should all give yourselves a pat on the back 🙂

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 10:53 am

  153. I think I will open an abortion thread but I’ll wait till after X’mas.

    Jason Soon

    December 19, 2006 at 10:55 am

  154. Warning, Jason – another Thread of Doom will be in the offing.

    But not before Xmas, no.

    skepticlawyer

    December 19, 2006 at 11:16 am

  155. SL, who cares if it is off-topic. Don’t become like LP!

    Whyisitso, strong views on abortion has a few johnnycomelatelys on it!!

    Jason ,
    are you introducing a pregnant pause

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    December 19, 2006 at 11:17 am

  156. If Fyodors not here it won’t go to thread of doom level.

    I think I can make my basic methodology prevail. And it allows a spectrum of outcomes. With either a very long window of opportunity or a very short one.

    GMB

    December 19, 2006 at 11:25 am

  157. graeme – check yr email

    Jason Soon

    December 19, 2006 at 11:56 am


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