RSA calls for equal protection of non-religious, ex-religious people in NSW

Si Gladman / 20 May 2024

Vilification laws in New South Wales should be strengthened to treat non-religious and ex-religious people equally with religious people, the Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) has told the state’s Law Reform Commission.

In a submission to the review of section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), addressing serious racial and religious vilification, the RSA highlighted cases of discrimination and vilification of non-religious and ex-religious people in making the case for greater protection.

RSA Executive Director Si Gladman pointed out that the current wording in section 93Z (1) of the Act ignored non-religious people and ex-religious people. 

Read the submission here.

The title of the section refers to threatening acts or inciting violence on the grounds of “race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex or HIV/AIDS status”. It then outlaws such behaviour towards another person or a group of persons on the basis of a “religious belief or affiliation”.

“While the definition provided says religious belief or affiliation “means holding or not holding a religious belief or view”, the text in section (1) should be strengthened so that it is obvious that it covers non-religious and ex-religious people,” said Mr Gladman.

“Non-religious people or ex-religious people who have recently renounced or walked away from religion or cults do not necessarily think of themselves as having a non-religious affiliation – unless, perhaps, if they formally join an atheist, humanist or rationalist group, or an ex-religious support group.”

In the submission, Mr Gladman said that people leaving Islam, in particular, faced extreme forms of abuse, harassment, violence and intimidation from their former religious communities.

The RSA also pointed to the disturbing rise in hardline religious groups taking to the streets in displays that have sought to intimidate members of the public, and to online intimidation towards non-religious people.

The submission included a reference to a recent video by international social media ‘influencer’ Andrew Tate in which he attacked atheists following the alleged church stabbing at a Christian church in Sydney.

In the video, Tate said it was atheists who were:

 “…pushing and purporting the ideas that are destroying your society. They are the people who are trying to destroy your family life and poison your children.”

The RSA also urged the NSW Law Reform Commission again to call for the government to abolish the crime of blasphemy in the state.

The Law Reform Commission previously recommended that blasphemy be abolished in 1994, yet Section 574 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) still gives the example of “scoffing” at Christianity as an example of conduct amounting to blasphemy. 

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Si Gladman is Executive Director at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

Image: Shutterstock

All the more reason.