Austria’s Law against Defamation of Religion – Public Lecture

When: Monday, 28 October, 2013 at 12.00 noon Where: Moot Court Room, Ligertwood Building, Law School

Speaker: Professor Greg Taylor

Professor Greg Taylor is an honorary Professor of the University of Marburg, Germany, and an associate professor of law at Monash University. His undergraduate education was in law and German language and literature at the University of Adelaide, and his post-graduate degrees were obtained in Germany. He has written widely on comparative-law themes in relation to the German-speaking countries as well as on legal history and constitutional law.

Recently there have been calls from Islamic nations for the creation of a crime of “defamation of religion”. Austria already has such an offence: section 188 of the Criminal Code of 1974 prohibits giving ‘justified offence’ (berechtigtes Ärgernis) by ‘publicly disparag[ing] or ridicul[ing] a person who, or an object which, is the subject of veneration of a domestically established church or religious community, or a dogma, a lawful custom or a lawful institution of such a church or religious community’. This has recently been applied to secure the conviction of an activist of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, who announced at a semi-public seminar attended by about thirty people, including one undercover journalist, that Mohammed was a paedophile. Professor’s Taylor’s seminar will trace the history of the provision and consider how it is applied by the Courts. One of the most crucial terms in the definition of the offence is clearly ‘justified offence’, which the Courts interpret to mean justified offence to an average believer. It will be contended that this interpretation, and the offence as a whole, is too strict for a society which (like Austria) is not a theocracy, but in which, rather, free debate about religion is inevitable. Although the differences between racial and religious vilification are not as clear-cut as they were once thought to be, there is still an enormous distinction between race and religion; that justifies a much greater public space for discussion, including unpleasant discussion, of the latter. Probably there should be an offence of disturbing religious sensibilities only when public order is threatened, or some other public good, not merely the feelings of religious believers, is jeopardised.

For further information, contact Paul Babie Email:

Flyer: here.

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