Over the last two days of this week the Australian Government introduced and passed a bill for the control of terrorism, which effectively rewrites the sedition laws of Australia. It is arguably the most horrific erosion of freedom of speech seen in Australia and the British Commonwealth since the abuses that saw the denial of the Trinity made a capital offence in England in 1645. It is a direct attack on Habeas Corpus and allows the imprisonment for the inciting of opposition to the government. Such preaching is seen as sedition. Christ and the apostles would have been arrested and tried under these laws, as has been pointed out.
What is fascinating is that both major parties combined to pass it in undue haste in a day. A secret investigation was touted as a reason to get it through parliament without serious opposition. It was admitted that this legislation was badly written but its urgent implementation was argued to justify its bad construction and unseemly haste.
What is of interest in the opposition is that both major Trinitarian churches compared the misuse of the laws of sedition to the trial of Christ on the night stated to be April 6, 30 CE. He was in fact crucified on Wednesday 5 April, 30 CE. His trial took place on the night of 14 Nisan, which was the Tuesday night and Wednesday morning of 5 April, 30 CE. But when have facts worried them? The facts are discussed in the paper Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159).
In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 November 2005, David Marr wrote that: “Christ would have little chance against the new sedition laws.”
He said that: “The stench that hangs around sedition cases goes way, way back to the greatest trial in our history, the one that has loomed over our world for a couple of millennia. Christ was tried for sedition.” He went on to quote Canberra’s auxiliary Catholic bishop, Pat Power, who said this week: “Anyone who is relaxed and comfortable about the proposed anti-terrorism legislation might care to read Chapter 23 of Luke's Gospel.” "Jesus is dragged before Pilate accused of sedition. The trumped-up charges are laid but Pilate returns a 'not guilty' verdict. The accusers become more insistent, so the cowardly Pilate orders a review, sending Jesus the Galilean off to be examined by Herod. The new trial simply shows up the shallowness of Herod's character. The upshot is Jesus's eventual crucifixion and two old enemies, Pilate and Herod, becoming good friends. It is amazing how anti-terrorism measures bring together unlikely allies!"
Marr says that: “Christ's trial had in spades elements that would emerge time and again through the squalid history of sedition: dodgy evidence, lies, duplicity, and a judge who goes with the mob knowing in his heart he's condemning an innocent - but troublesome - man.”
He says that charge was clear and goes on to quote Dr. Paul Barnett, the former Anglican bishop of North Sydney and ancient history lecturer at Macquarie University, who says: "The gospels all agree, Christ was crucified as King of the Jews. So sedition and treason were the presenting cause for the Romans to crucify Jesus of Nazareth."
It was clear to Marr and these churchmen as to the presenting cause. Marr said that, “What makes Christ's the prototype of so many trials that followed was the use of sedition as a device for persecution. Christ was arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin on the night of April 6 [sic], AD30 (approx) for blasphemy. They wanted him dead, but as they explained to Pilate the next morning: ‘It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.’"
“That's when they accused Christ of sedition, saying: ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a king.’”
Marr draws atrtention to the fact that, “The accusation played on two Roman fears. The first was the fear of another tax revolt like one that erupted a few years after Christ's birth when Judea first became a Roman province. The second was a fear that this man was trying to displace the local king.”
Barnett had explained in his comments: "It was Roman policy to set up client kings in the provinces they conquered. But the Romans decided who that would be and they took a very dim view of any local individual who made that claim for himself."
“How would Christ fare in [Prime Minister] John Howard's Australia? The Government has promised to look at its new sedition provisions again, but as they stand, Christ could be charged under section 80.2(1) as a person who "urges another person to overthrow by force or violence: (a) the Constitution; or (b) the Government of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory; or (c) the lawful authority of the Government of the Commonwealth."
Violence isn't the key. Preaching is enough. The outcome is irrelevant. The Apostles would be in trouble, too. Section 30A(1) would see them charged as members of an unlawful "body of persons which advocates or encourages the carrying out of a seditious intention".
Again, there need be no violent outcome to the teaching of the Apostles. Sedition is merely the crime of urging. That perfect peace continues to reign in the nation is no defence to the charge. That's why sedition has always been the tyrant's friend.
No exchange between accused and judge is more famous than Christ's reply to Pilate's question: "Art thou the King of the Jews?" He answered: "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Convinced by this, Pilate went out to the crowd and declared: "I find in him no fault at all." But the crowd was not satisfied. Nor would the law be in Howard's Australia.
For the past few centuries, convictions for sedition have depended on proof of intention. Sedition had to be deliberate. Not under Howard's counter-terrorism proposals. What gives them their exceptional reach is the plan to convict preachers, say, for being reckless about the impact of their words. Penalty: prison for seven years.
Several times, Pilate tried to release Christ, but each time, the crowd begged for his execution. "If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." With the polls against him and threats in the air, Pilate buckled. "Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away."
Down the centuries, the sedition laws would deliver many martyrdoms. Daniel Defoe and Ben Jonson were imprisoned for sedition. Moliere's Tartuffe was banned for sedition. So rattled was he by threats of sedition that Robert Burns wrote his political verse under another name. The American rebels attached First Amendment guarantees of free speech to their new constitution to overcome the law of sedition. Mahatma Gandhi spent years in the slammer for sedition. It was always Britain's favoured weapon against independence fighters. Joe McCarthy turned sedition laws against the American left. Among the charges Nelson Mandela faced was sedition.
Sedition's use in Australia has been just as political and just as grubby. Peter Lalor and his followers at the Eureka Stockade were charged with sedition and the editor of the Ballarat Times was found guilty of sedition for praising the revolt and spent three months in prison.
Australia wheeled out sedition laws to break the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) in World War I, to imprison communist union officials like Lance Sharkey after World War II and sedition charges were even laid in Queensland against anti-Vietnam War demonstrators in the 1960s.”
Marr goes on to say: “Setting out this ‘long and undignified’ story for arts leaders meeting this week to protest against Howard's proposals, Chris Connolly, visiting fellow in law at the University of NSW, put it all in a nutshell: “The clear lesson from the history of sedition laws is that they are used routinely by oppressive regimes, or are used by more liberal regimes at times of great national stress. Their use is nearly always the subject of considerable regret at a later date.’"
This is a very serious and true statement. The English speaking people have had to fight civil wars to overthrow unjust systems and enforce basic ideals. Our freedoms are always hard won and now they are being given away by weak men and women in the mistaken belief that they can buy peace by removing freedom of speech. It is becoming a time where the people say, “Preach to us smooth things.”
Similar erosions are occurring in the US, in Britain, and in Canada.
We will face the most difficult times of our history over the next ten years. We will all face an expanding China between now and 2010. It will expand into the Pacific and will seek to occupy large sections of the nations now on the Pacific rim. Weakness will result in the breaking of the power of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America. South East Asia will not escape. Appeasement will do no good and the limitation of free speech will not save corrupt governments. China may well prepare for and provoke nuclear war to attain its ends.
The operations in the Middle East are escalating. Most people do not know that the Coalition forces are now engaged in operations in Syria to contain insurgents. In much the same way that operations went on in Laos and Cambodia to stop the passage of men and materials along the Ho Chi Min trail to the south using neutral countries, Syria is being used as a corridor supporting and encouraging insurgent traffic to Iraq. The Coalition sees it as essential to engage them in Syria. That will expand and go on to the problem with Iran, and ultimately a major confrontation before 2012. The alliances involving China will be drawn in as well.
Australia cannot avoid confrontation on its own soil and may well lose all of the north. The US and Canada will not be saved by appeasement in any of these problems..
A free strong people are essential to deal with what lies ahead.
More importantly, a repentant people dedicated to the service of God will be
all that saves us.
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