Witch's Salvo lawsuit fails

Melbourne, Australia - A JAILED sex offender and self-proclaimed witch - who claims that a Christian-based prisons program incited hatred against occultists - has lost another bid to sue the Salvation Army for vilification.

Robin Fletcher, 49, who is serving a 10-year sentence for crimes including drugging and sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls, had launched a complaint under Victoria's anti-vilification laws.

The complaint took in the Salvation Army, Corrections Victoria and CMC Australasia Pty Ltd, which was the distributor of a Christian-based program called Alpha.

Successful action by Fletcher could have resulted in the program being withdrawn from all Victorian jails.

Fletcher had argued that the Alpha program - in which he had volunteered to take part - had incited hatred against wiccans, occultists and pagans.

He also objected to the program referring to a verse in the Bible which implied that if a witch wanted to become a Christian then they must burn their books.

Fletcher first took his case to Victoria's Equal Opportunity Commission where it was rejected because of a "lack of substance" - a decision with which the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) agreed today.

VCAT president Stuart Morris said today: "In short, the claim is preposterous".

In a seven page ruling, Justice Morris found it was a "genuine religious purpose" for people of one religious persuasion to assert it was the one "true way" and, therefore, any other faith was false.

He said this alone did not amount to a breach of the Act, because it did not inflame or incite people to hate others because of their religion or race.

"The course is intended to explain Christian thinking and, possibly, to persuade persons to follow Christian ways," Justice Morris said.

He said Christians were entitled to say to a witch "If you want to be a Christian you must renounce witchcraft" and the same rule applied for Christians considering witchcraft.

"This is the stuff of evangelism and religious debate. It has nothing to do with the law of Victoria," he said.

The Salvation Army welcomed the ruling, saying the decision had helped to clarify what were improper reasons for launching a complaint.

Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria chief executive Helen Szoke also said the ruling "makes it clear that racial and religious vilification is much more than merely holding or expressing an opinion".

"It is the active encouragement or promotion of hatred towards others because of their race or religion."