Our Austrian correspondent AMT sends a tip about the prosecution of a Christian lawyer who was convicted of “hate speech” after campaigning against the building of a Buddhist shrine. She includes this note as an introduction to an article about the case:
Dr. Alfons Adam is a devout Christian and an activist. He decided that the small town of Gföhl in northern Austria did not need a huge stupa (Buddhist prayer house), and publicized his opinion. He was then reported to the authorities for hate speech (Verhetzung) and found guilty.
As a matter of interest, local citizens were given a say in whether or not the structure would be built, and voted against it in a referendum. This was different from what happens when a mosque is built — no referendum is ever allowed.
While Dr. Adam’s flyers may not be liked by Buddhists, they should not be seen as hate speech, but perhaps “denigration of religious teaching”. Even so, he did not attack Buddhists themselves, but merely pointed out Buddhist teachings that were, in his eyes, incompatible with the views of those of Christianity.
In any case, his freedom of speech should trump freedom of religion. Or so one would think…
Many thanks to JLH for translating this article from ORF:
Stupa: Convicted of Hate-Speech
There was an aftermath to the referendum on the construction of a Buddhist stupa* in Gföhl (Krems district). Because of a circular, an attorney had to appear to answer a charge of hate speech. He was convicted.
The 69-year-old was found guilty and fined €5,400. It was charged that, as chief of an organization and a party, he had authorized circulars in which Buddhism was described as an inhumane ideology.
The circular was delivered to 1,629 households in Gföhl.
As part of the run-up in February 2012 to a referendum on the construction of a stupa, it was delivered to 1,629 Gföhl households. Defense attorney Thomas Kaumberger filed an appeal. The verdict — met with boisterous disapproval by the defendant’s many supporters — is not legally binding.
Among other things, the religious group is described in the circular as bellicose, seeking world domination and as having moved toward pedophilia and National Socialism, said state’s attorney Franz Hütter, in commenting on insults which are damaging to human dignity. Recognized religious communities, he said, are protected in Austria; the judgmental description in the circular was intended to encourage hatred.
Accused attorney spoke for one and one-half hours
The defense argued the contrary, citing freedom of expression. In the light of religious freedom, and as a believing Catholic, the defendant had wanted to warn other Christians. The statements in the circular had been proven.
In a presentation lasting just one and one-half hours, the accused himself attempted to prove the claims in the circular. He did that with quotations from the internet and diverse books on Buddhist rituals. The 69-year-old said that the purpose was to prevent a Buddhist religious center. He regarded the fact that he had even been arrested as directed against Christians. “This is about social policy — Christians are to be pushed aside.”
The mayor, too, had to testify
The mayor of Gföhl, who had supported the project, testified that the circulars had appeared in the last week before the referendum. There were a number of circulars at that time, “[some] below the belt, but [some] open-minded.” The referendum resulted in a rejection of the project. He was not acquainted with defendant, who had never been in Gföhl.
In the grounds for her judgment, Judge Susanne Daniel indicated that diverse interpretations are represented in every religion, but they may not be used as a general rule or overall evaluation.
An email sent out by Dr. Alfons Adam:
November 13, 2013
Dear Like-minded friends!
Today, the Krems provincial court convicted me of hate speech and sentenced me to a fine of €5,400. Of course, I have appealed. Obviously the verdict was agreed between the state’s attorney and the judge, impelled by the results of my testimony of proofs. For over an hour, I showed by quotations that everything said in the circular about the Tibetan Lama is true. It did not matter.
What matters is supporting everything that serves to extinguish the Christian faith in our land.
The legal justification is noteworthy. Because Buddhism is a recognized religion, nothing negative may be said about it, true or not. The appeals court in Vienna will probably confirm this scandalous decision. I estimate that — despite an inconvenient time and remote location — about 60 of my friends were present to show support. Which made me very happy, in spite of everything. And this gives me hope that we can carry out some common action. But more on that later.
And now to all those “soldiers of prayer,” who are, I hope, not too disappointed. I know there were many of you. We do not know God’s plan. It is certain that He will answer our prayers in His own way.
I can say no more today. We must sleep on this.
|*||Hemispherical Buddhist commemorative monument usually housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha or other saintly persons.|