Happy Freedom of Expression Day Oilers

If you sensed the ground trembling just a little yesterday; relax. It was nothing to be concerned about. It was just the combined chair, board, executive members, lawyers, sponsors and insurers of the Australian Rugby Union shaking in their collective boots.

From the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice, London. 3 July 2019:

This case concerns the expression of religious views, on a public social media platform, disapproving of homosexual acts.

The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that ‘homosexuality is a sin’) does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds. In the present case, there was positive evidence to suggest that the Appellant had never discriminated on such grounds in the past and was not likely to do so in the future (because, as he explained, the Bible prohibited him from discriminating against anybody) […]


The Respondant failed to appreciate two matters. First, failing to appreciate that the Appellant’s apparent intransigence was an understandable reaction to being told something that he found incomprehensible, namely that he could never express his deeply held religious views in any manner on any public forum […]

The judge should have recognised that the Appellant’s comments were made in a social as opposed to a professional context, his beliefs were a genuine contribution to an important public debate, and were in response to direct questions […]
 
The situation was not helped by the terse – and arguably inaccurate – terms in which the complaint against the Appellant was initially recorded, namely him posting “views of a discriminatory nature”[…]

The public perception of a risk of discrimination cannot justify a restriction on the Appellant’s freedom of expression. To suppress the expression of Biblical criticism of sexual practices would amount to a heckler’s veto […]

The disciplinary proceedings were flawed and unfair to the Appellant. The fundamental fault for the unfortunate course which the disciplinary proceedings took lay with the Respondant […]
For all the reasons given above, we would allow the appeal.


Have yourselves a wonderful Freedom of Expression day today and, to ranty, shouty, motley “heckler’s veto”: on yer bike! May we hear much less of your mob’s rule in the future.

Israel Folau
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