Australian pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot (Photo by Catch the Fire Ministries)
Two Australian pastors who were convicted of “vilifying” Muslims when they quoted from the Quran during a seminar on jihad have had their appeals upheld by the Victorian Supreme Court.
And while that means they will return to a lower court for another trial, that actually is a good result, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs.
“In a sense we are happy with this decision… It means this case will be kept alive in the public consciousness,” Pastor Danny Nalliah said in a VOM report. “There’s a need to keep these vilification laws in sharp focus to reveal the problems this law is creating.”
The Australian law was imposed in order to prevent the denigration of people based on their race or religion, and similar laws also have been approved in Canada, where critics of the law say they include sexual orientation and forbid pastors from condemning homosexuality as a sin.
Many of the “hate crimes” proposals in the United States are based on a similar concept: designating as “crimes” the statements people make about their own beliefs or convictions.
In a statement released through Catch the Fire Ministries, where Nalliah serves as president, he thanked his friends for their moral, prayer and financial support during the trial and appeal process to date.
“The battle for Freedom to express Truth is far from over, as a retrial at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (with a different Judge) is expected sometime next year… I believe the Lord will continue to use this case to further awaken His Church, our nation of Australia, the nations of the world, and to discredit the vilification laws in Victoria,” he wrote.
Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot were charged following a complaint filed by The Islamic Council of Victoria, and were the first people found guilty of religious vilification under the Victorian Religious and Racial Tolerance Act of 2002. They were accused of vilifying Muslims at a seminar on jihad on March 9, 2002.
VOM said the two were lecturing on the differences between Christianity and Islam, and quoted directly from the Quran.
After his conviction, Nalliah had refused to apologize.
“Right from the inception, we have said that this law is a foul law, this law is not a law that brings unity. It causes disunity and as far as we are concerned right from the beginning we have stated that we will not apologize. We will go to prison for standing for the truth and not sacrifice our freedom and freedom to speak,” he told VOM.
In a commentary in the Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt noted the travesty of the case, and that besides the death threats to the pastors and their families, they still must pay an estimated $150,000 for the court proceedings against them.
“Some victory. Some justice. These exhausted pastors have been harassed, threatened, denounced as bigots and flayed in the papers and on the ABC, and are now deep in debt. And why? Because they quoted the Quran to their congregation. Because in that congregation were Muslim activists, sent by a discrimination commissar hired from a Muslim lobby group,” Bolt wrote.
He wrote that much of the evidence against the pastors was that they, in fact, quoted the Quran accurately. “Yes, the Quran did tell men they could beat their wives. Yes, it did have verses calling on Muslims to fight infidels until they submitted.”
“The pastors were found guilty of vilifying Muslims even though the judge identified only one thing Scot had said that was factually wrong: he’d given the wrong birthrate for Muslims here. And, the judge, added, he’d failed to quote a verse that showed Allah was merciful,” Bolt wrote.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, “Tortured for Christ,” was released.