To the Ruddock Panel
Thank you for the opportunity to make this submission.
As a member of the Satan Worshippers of Australia (SWA) I have for a long time been very concerned by the lack of protection for my religious freedom.
As Satanists, we follow a code of rebellion against undeserved authority. If possible, our form of rebellion is to confront our opponents using their own doctrines. This will all make sense as I spell out my concerns and demonstrate how some simple laws to protect religious freedom will operate in day to day transactions and allow me to fully practice my faith.
The wonderful thing about the changes being debated is that any changes granting special religious privileges will apply to all religions and may be used against all religions. Not many people realize this and I’m sure Mr Ruddock and Fr Brennan will be delighted to make recommendations which reduce the power of the Christian faiths by increasing the rights of lesser religions such as the humble Satan Worshippers of Australia.
As part of my faith, I would have no problem creating a custom made wedding cake for a same-sex couple. In fact, the debauchery and sinfulness of the gay lifestyle is something we Satanists can appreciate. On the other hand, we have a problem with serving Muslims as their preferred deity has an anti-Satanic disposition. Of course, we would not refuse service but we would want to impose an extra 20% surcharge for any Muslim seeking our services. This may seem draconian but, in fact, operates in a similar manner to the Jizya imposed by Muslims on “people of the book” otherwise known as Christians and Jews. The rate imposed by them seems to vary and can increase depending on the affluence of the infidel. Similarly, if a Muslim should arrive at our shop driving an expensive car we would want to be able to charge a higher surcharge.
Freedom of Speech
As you would know, S.18c of the Racial Discrimination Act prevents speech which may offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person but religious belief is not a protected class. If the class of protected persons is increased to include religious persons then I will be better able to practice my faith. At the moment, clergy from the major religions and in particular Pope Benedict, regularly condemn Satan and those who follow him. After a proper amendment to S.18c, I will be able to take action against such persons and better protect my religious freedom.
You would be aware that Mormons currently baptise non-Mormons after their death. The most infamous example of this was former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who baptised his vehemently atheist father-in-law after his death. As part of our faith, we believe that Satan wants us to visit the graves of deceased Mormons and perform condemnation ceremonies which will better allow them to access the wonders of Hell. In the past, cemetery groundsmen have persecuted us by disrupting our condemnation ceremonies. With proper religious freedom protection laws, we will be able to take our time and properly consecrate deceased Mormons to an eternity in Hell.
You would be aware that some members of the Sikh faith insist on carrying a kirpan. I note that the Drayton Manor Theme Park in the UK has banned wheelie shoes for being too dangerous but six-inch knives are fine provided they are strapped to a Sikh. Of course, it is ceremonial and not intended to be used as a weapon. I feel the same about my trident and am looking forward to tucking it into my tunic when I go to the football.
Fortunately, the Satan Worshippers of Australia already enjoy tax-free status. This is the case despite the fact that I am a leader of the Satan Worshippers of Australia and I don’t believe in a supernatural being (my belief is in a more metaphorical concept) and I may have deliberately duped my followers into believing in a supernatural Satan. The High Court case of Church of the New Faith V Commissioner of Payroll Tax established that the Church of Scientology was a religion and the Court declared “Charlatanism is a necessary price of religious freedom, and if a self-proclaimed teacher persuades others to believe in a religion which he propounds, lack of sincerity or integrity on his part is not incompatible with the religious character of the beliefs, practices and observances accepted by his followers.”
Religious Instruction Classes in Victoria
Fortunately, the Queensland Government, like many State Governments would allow us to provide religious indoctrination err, I mean instruction lessons to children in a State School provided at least one child in that school is nominated as a Satanist and provided our volunteer teacher has drafted a rudimentary course outline and complied with some minor administrative matters. It is a disgrace that potential young Satanists in Victoria do not enjoy the same religious freedom. We implore the panel to recommend laws which would overturn the ban on religious indoctrination in Victorian schools.
Abortion Clinic Safe Zones
In many jurisdictions, Christians are not allowed to protest within 150m of an abortion clinic. As part of our faith, abortionists and their clientele are revered members of the community and we are required to follow those protesters and picket outside their homes. This would currently be prohibited under nuisance laws and is a breach of our religious freedom.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recommended that the Catholic Church examine its policy that priests must be celibate. This is overreach by a government agency and is a clear breach of religious freedom. Thanks to the celibacy rule, a significant number of Catholic Priests are currently enjoying Satan’s company and we condemn any efforts to change it.
Some members of society are trying to introduce assisted dying legislation so that they and their loved ones can avoid a painful and excruciating death. Of course, having observed Christian behaviour, they won’t be satisfied by merely controlling their own lives, soon enough they will want to control other people’s lives and will cruelly be insisting that everyone with a painful terminal illness is knocked off quickly. Satanists understand that Catholics, in particular, need to suffer and denying them that would be a breach of their religious freedom. Furthermore, as Satanists, we enjoy watching Catholics suffer and want to ensure they are not denied a long slow painful death if that is what they wish. Consequently, to protect religious freedom, the government should create a register. Anyone who signs the register and who subsequently suffers a painful terminal illness will be denied assisted dying treatment no matter how much they beg for mercy.
Like some Native American tribes, we Satanists enjoy peyote and other illegal drugs as part of our religious practice. Unfortunately, we are persecuted in Australia as there is no legal exemption allowing us to take these drugs and fully practice our religious belief. We urge the panel to restore and protect our religious freedom in regard to drug taking.
If religious freedom is properly protected by some form of Bill of Rights or Charter, then I and fellow Satanists can look forward to demanding our religious rights and taking our rightful place in society at the same table as the major religions.
Of course, this has been satire, but hopefully, it opens the panel’s eyes to the dangers in privileging religious practice.
On a more serious note, I encourage the panel to consider the opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in the US case of Employment Division V. Smith. The case decides whether a law is valid under US law but Justice Scalia makes very pertinent points as to whether the claim to special religious freedom is a good idea.
Following are excerpts from the decision:
This case requires us to decide whether the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment permits the State of Oregon to include religiously inspired peyote use within the reach of its general criminal prohibition on use of that drug, and thus permits the State to deny unemployment benefits to persons dismissed from their jobs because of such religiously inspired use.
… But the “exercise of religion” often involves not only belief and profession but the performance of (or abstention from) physical acts: assembling with others for a worship service, participating in sacramental use of bread and wine, proselytizing, abstaining from certain foods or certain modes of transportation. It would be true, we think … that a state would be “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]” if it sought to ban such acts or abstentions only when they are engaged in for religious reasons, or only because of the religious belief that they display. It would doubtless be unconstitutional, for example, to ban the casting of “statues that are to be used for worship purposes,” or to prohibit bowing down before a golden calf.
Respondents in the present case, however, seek to carry the meaning of “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]” one large step further. They contend that their religious motivation for using peyote places them beyond the reach of a criminal law that is not specifically directed at their religious practice, and that is concededly constitutional as applied to those who use the drug for other reasons. They assert, in other words, that “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]” includes requiring any individual to observe a generally applicable law that requires (or forbids) the performance of an act that his religious belief forbids (or requires). As a textual matter, we do not think the words must be given that meaning. It is no more necessary to regard the collection of a general tax, for example, as “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]” by those citizens who believe support of organized government to be sinful than it is to regard the same tax as “abridging the freedom . . . of the press” of those publishing companies that must pay the tax as a condition of staying in business. It is a permissible reading of the text, in the one case as in the other, to say that, if prohibiting the exercise of religion (or burdening the activity of printing) is not the object of the tax, but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended…
Our decisions reveal that the latter reading is the correct one. We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition …
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.
We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. “Laws,” we said, are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.
The law of the land should apply to everyone equally. There are already too many special exemptions which privilege religious practice and belief. We should not be adding to them.
Author: Trevor Bell
Organisation: The Iron Fist Velvet Glove Podcast