An evangelical street preacher has told a federal parliamentary inquiry in Tasmania that groups with socially unacceptable views – like neo-Nazis – should be free to express share their beliefs publicly.
David Gee, who brought before Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal last year for comments on same-sex marriage, appeared on Tuesday at the inquiry examining possible contention between religious freedom and other human rights.
Using an example of neo-Nazis based in Hobart, he said their views should be able to be shared “to be seen for all its ugliness”.
Mr Gee said allowing it to be spoken and then challenged was a far more potent way of dealing with issues of discrimination and societal disruption that keeping such views hidden.
He agreed words could be dangerous.
“But I fear that the result of saying certain opinions are unvoiceable legally bares a far greater cost,” Mr Gee said.
Former Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said Tasmanian legislation should be a model of anti-discrimination laws nationally in the absence of a human rights charter.
"I think the balance under Tasmanian law is right – to do anything more would be to privilege one of those rights over all the others," she said.
"It's not right to say any group in society is above the law."
The state government in its last term attempted to amend the state’s anti-discrimination legislation to allow views expressed for religious purposes to be exempt from the law.
This was prompted by a complaint to the commissioner by Martine Delaney against views on same-sex marriage expressed by Tasmanian Catholic Archbishop Julian Porteous in a booklet distributed to churches and schools.
The complaint was withdrawn after two conciliation sessions and the unamended document remained publicly available.
“So it clearly hasn’t chilled that speech or freedom of expression,” Ms Banks said.
Archbishop Porteous said state’s anti-discrimination laws needed to be strengthened as people feared they could be in legal trouble if they expressed perceived controversial views based on their religion.
He said the withdrawal of Ms Delaney’s complaint meant there was an uncertainty around the impact of the legislation.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome told the inquiry the definition on religious discrimination had changed over the past 15 years for LGBTI people.
“It has changed from not discriminating against people because of their faith to allowing discrimination in the name of faith,” he said.