A Test Case in Victoria of Christian Liberty?

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT – the same body that heard the infamous “Catch the Fire” case) is currently determining whether or not to hear a case brought by a gay youth group “Way Out” against the Christian Brethren (see the story in The Age here).

Apparently this youth group inquired as to whether they could use “The Phillip Island Adventure Resort” (run by “Christian Youth Camps” and owned by the Christian Brethren) and were respectfully told “no, it wouldn’t be appropriate”. “Way Out” is claiming this is discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and that it is against this state’s “Equal Opportunity Act”, although the act does allow for “religious groups to discriminate against anyone as long as it is done because of genuine religious beliefs or principles”.

Keep your eye on this one. It hasn’t been approved to go to trial yet. The decision about whether to hear the case or not will in itself be significant.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “A Test Case in Victoria of Christian Liberty?

  1. Peregrinus

    Interesting one.

    The headlines notwithstanding, the action isn’t against the Christian Brethren denomination, which reportedly owns the Phillip Island Adventure Resort, but against a company called Christian Youth Camps Ltd, which manages it – presumably on the basis of some contract or licence with the property owner.

    CYC manages a number of other camps; I don’t know if those camps are also owned by the Christian Brethren, or have any connection with them.

    I also don’t know if CYC is owned by the Christian Brethren, or is owned and run by people who are members of that denomination. They don’t promote their camps as “Christian camps”; if you visit the website of the Phillip Island Adventure Resort, there is nothing in it to suggest any Christian mission or apostolate (or indeed any kind of Christian connection at all, apart from the mention in the small-print copyright notice of “Christian Youth Camps Ltd”).

    Reading the news reports, it seems that the issue will come down to whether a trading corporation like CYC can be said to have a religion (can a corporation be said to believe anything?) and so can take advantage of the provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act which give exemptions for discrimination “reasonably necessary” for a person “to comply with the doctrines, beliefs or principles of their religion”.

    The current Victorian legislation also contains an exemption for “religious bodies”. I don’t know whether that was a feature of the Victorian legislation in 2007, when the events at issue here happened. If it was, I suppose there will also be a question as to whether a trading corporation like CYC can be said to be a “religious body”, and so take advantage of those exemptions.

    • Yes, Perry, all these questions are questions. We wait for the VCAT to give some answers, no? 🙂

      • Peregrinus

        Yes. A hope which will be frustrated if they decide not to hear the case.

        • No, not exactly. If they decide not to hear the case, that will itself be a decision and will create a precedent for the future. They will be saying straight out that the CYC has not broken the law. It would be more difficult, I think, if they did decide to hear the case – then the CYC would have to make a case of WHY they hadn’t broken the law.

          • Peregrinus

            But I think we’d be interested to know why CYC hasn’t broken the law – what is the boundary, if you like, of the exemption which saves CYC. Otherwise it will be hard to know how much others whose circumstances are not exactly in line with CYC’s can rely on the precedent.

  2. Louise

    I assume the VCAT is just a kangaroo court in which case it can go to the devil

    • Peregrinus

      There is a certain irony in simply stating an assumption that VCAT is a kangaroo court without actually bothering to point to any evidence that this is so. Are you trying to exemplify what “kangaroo court” means?

      • Louise

        It *would* be ironic if I were actually trying to prosecute people and fine them etc. As it is, I’m merely making a remark on a blog post which is not actually harming anyone.

        I said “I assume…” which is somewhat different to “I say that…”

        I assume it b/c to the best of my knowledge these kinds of tribunals/commissions do not follow the same processes etc as real courts. They seem more draconian. E.g. while a plaintiff can make charges and not be out of pocket, a defendant has to pay whatever fees are required regardless of verdict. Also, my understanding is that there is no presumption of innocence. In which case such courts can, as I say, go to the devil.

        • VCAT is not just a “kangaroo court”, Louise. It is not a criminal law court, but it is a real court of law to try civil cases and can make real judgements of law in such cases. We cannot simply say “go to the devil” as it is constituted as a part of the law of the land, and thus is at least one arm by which God seeks to govern us in peace.

          • Louise

            I would seriously like to test that. I’m not convinced that such things are constitutional. Obviously, I’m no expert, but the two objections I raised (which *may* perhaps apply to the VCAT and I’m pretty sure do apply to other entities like the AHRC) are seriously problematic, don’t you think?

            Put it another, way then. If I were summoned to appear before such an entity, I would get serious legal advice first, specifically from an expert on the constitution. I certainly would not assume that such an entity had real authority to summon me etc.

            • Louise

              I ought to point out too, that I am not in favour of sedition etc. I certainly do recognise all legitimate authority and by nature am very docile to such authority.

              I am equally well aware however, that many modern governments are overstepping the boundaries or in grave danger of doing so.

  3. Louise

    And morally speaking, bad law is no law at all, but tyranny.

  4. Louise

    I’m more concerned about stuff like this, actually:

    http://cbs2chicago.com/wireapnewsil/U.of.Ill.2.1795887.html

    People losing their livelihood merely for stating the teaching of the Catholic Church wrt homosex.