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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One I got right

I'm giving a talk next week about the subject of religious vilification. I haven't thought much about the legal issues - as opposed to the broader social and philosophical ones - concerning racial and religious vilification law for some considerable time, so I've been doing some research to get back into it.

In early 2001, I had an article entitled "Free Speech and Hate Speech" published in Quadrant magazine. There, I expressed concern about some aspects of racial vilification laws, which have the potential to encroach unnecessarily on freedom of speech (I think that this is an even greater concern if we are talking about religious vilification). Among other things, I criticised the outcome and reasoning in a 2000 case in New South Wales, Kazak v. John Fairfax Publications Ltd. There I left it as I concentrated on other issues over the next few years (I left legal practice in September 2001; I now hold myself out as a philosopher of law, among other things, but I don't keep up all that much with the detail of current cases unless I have a good reason).

However, I now see that an appeal in that case subsequently overturned the decision that I criticised, partly (though not entirely) on some of the same grounds that I discussed in the Quadrant article. The appeal decision was handed down back in October 2002, eighteen-odd months after my article appeared, and can be found over here. While I don't especially miss the cut and thrust of advocacy and litigation, there is a certain small pleasure in being right about what looks like a bad legal decision.

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