Australian pastors face jail for comparing Islam with Christianity

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN) — Two pastors in the Australian province of Victoria will go to jail if they don't apologize for publicly comparing Christianity with Islam according to their beliefs.

In arguments presented Aug. 14 in the Appeals Court of Australia, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the pastors, is seeking to overturn the 2004 ruling of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal. That tribunal found that the public expression of the pastors' beliefs incited hatred against Muslims in violation of Victoria's Racial and Religious Tolerance Act because the pastors‚ beliefs were deemed "offensive" and "unreasonable" interpretations of Christian and Islamic teachings.

"Pastors Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah are victims of a rogue law that tramples on religious freedoms protected by international law," said Seamus Hasson, the Becket Fund's president. "Instead of promoting religious tolerance, the act cultivates disharmony and suspicion. This law makes people afraid to engage in any genuine dialogue about religious beliefs because someone may end up taking them to court just for having an opinion!

"Our clients, as devoted men of God, were simply expressing their opinions in a straightforward, analytical way regarding the differences between Islam and Christianity," Hasson said. "It doesn't matter what the government or anyone else thinks about their opinions, everyone has the right to be wrong when it comes to expressing their opinions without fear of government sanction."

Scot and Nalliah have vowed to go to jail rather than apologize for expressing their beliefs as the tribunal has ordered.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, based in Washington D.C., is an international non-partisan public interest law firm that has championed the free expression of all religious traditions in the United States and around the world.