Crazy World Youth Day Laws

Posted: July 1, 2008 in Atheism, Australia, News, Religion
Tags: , , , , ,

Yes, yes … been busy.  However, this particular story really could not be passed up.  For those not in the know, Sydney is hosting Catholic World Youth Day (being helped along by an inordinate amount of government funding). As a part of this little shindig, New South Wales Police have been granted some rather … bizarre new powers as the story below highlights.

Youth Day laws ‘undermine basic rights’

The New South Wales Bar Association says new regulations for World Youth Day undermine basic rights and are an affront to freedom of speech.

Under the new regulations, people who refuse to stop engaging in conduct that causes annoyance or inconvenience to pilgrims can be arrested and fined up to $5,500.

The same provision did not apply during last year’s APEC Summit in Sydney.

The association says the terms are too vague and the penalties are excessive.

It says if existing laws are considered sufficient to regulate conduct at events like the Mardi Gras or the Rugby World Cup, they should be good enough to cover World Youth Day.

The Bar Association has also accused the Government of avoiding public scrutiny by creating a criminal offence by regulation, rather than making it an Act of Parliament.

It says the NSW Government is trying to restrict freedom of speech.

Association president Anna Katzmann SC says the laws are ridiculous because any person displaying opposition to the event could be affected.

“If I were to wear a t-shirt proclaiming that World Youth Day is a waste of public money in a World Youth Day-declared area, and I refuse to remove it when an officer, an authorised officer of the Rural Fire Service asks me to do so, then I’m potentially committing a criminal offence,” she said.

The Greens say the powers aim to shut down protests and provide a sanitised view of Sydney.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon says the definition of causing annoyance is open to interpretation and the subsequent penalties are excessive.

“If somebody exposes themself to a World Youth Day participant they face a fine of $1,100, but if they wear an anti-Catholic t-shirt, the fine could be $5,500,” she said.

But Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Owens says officers will act reasonably in determining what is offensive.

“Police officers do it every day of the week,” he said.

“As I’ve said, they have a discretion. We’re not the fashion police, we’re not kill-joys.”

World Youth Day spokesman Father Mark Podesta rejected suggestions the Catholic Church requested the special powers.

That’s right.  If you try to hand out condoms, wear a t-shirt that happens to have a message not in line with Catholicism or play music too loud … you can be partially strip searched and/or fined up to $5,500.  So … anyone care to try to defend this particular exercise in craziness?

  1. This Devil's Workday says:

    Probably the Chasers!

  2. jim_the_lesser says:

    You have really missed the point on this. Look at the list of proscribed items in the new Regulations. They prevent the distribution of “rosary beads, candles, candle, holders, prayer tokens and prayer cards”, “food and drink”, stationary and giftware. Why would you want prevent the handing out of prayer cards to Catholic pilgrims?
    The regulations have little to do with protestors; rather they are designed to protect the “official merchandises” but more importantly, to prevent church groups, who are not conservative enough for the Sydney Cardinal and the Opus Dei senior echelons of the World Youth Day Committee, from distributing any material which is not orthodox enough for them.
    These laws potentially make it illegal for nuns to give out holy cards, pilgrims to swap souvenirs and Sydney’s community giving out drinks and snacks to pilgrims as they pass by (This has happened at most World Youth Day particular after the final Mass)
    The government is a patsy for George Pell’s (and his Opus Dei cell at the top of WYD) attempts to control the orthodoxy of the whole event and snuff out any voice from within the church which may disagree with his narrow vision of what is Catholic. Forget the protesters, the Government has made the NSW Police and SES the new secret thought police for Catholic Church. They do not need to arrest anyone; just the existence of these regulations will create enough fear in people to shut them up. Which is exactly what Pell and his Cronnies wanted.

  3. AV says:

    Bruce at Thinker’s Podium has a similar take, Jim. Still, I wonder . . . . police arresting nuns for handing out rosary beads and prayer cards wouldn’t do very much for the image of the police or the state government.

  4. […] there may be, as Bruce and jim the lesser (a commenter at Matt’s Notepad) suggest, another angle to this. The State Government […]

  5. Its not a problem at all if the pope is here to embrace our way of thinking. In fact he could learn a lot from the protestant way of thinking. Think of Australia the teacher and he the student.
    Please visit.

  6. ozatheist says:

    It was good to see those two women from the NoToPope coalition get the law repealed (at least the annoyance section). A win for free speech and common sense.

    PS. I’M BACK

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