Is blasphemy harassment?

FreedomWatch readers might be interested in this absurd workplace harassment case from the UK:

Did the question ‘What’s happened to the f***ing Pope?’, shouted in a pressured newsroom, amount to harassment on grounds of religion of a Catholic sub-editor present at the time?

Obviously not, says Underhill J in Heafield v Times Newspaper Limited.

The employment tribunal found that the conduct was unwanted, but not done with the purpose of creating an adverse environment for Mr Heafield; if Mr Heafield experienced the environment as adverse, that was unreasonable of him. And it was not done on grounds of Mr Heafield’s religion or belief.

Vulgar? Yes. Worthy of a tribunal hearing and subsequent appeal? No way.

But this is a perfect example of the kind of case that Australian courts could be wasting time over if the government’s draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 becomes law.

And it’s even worse than that because the standard for discrimination under the draft Bill is even lower than that which applied to the UK case outlined above. So where the case was lost in the UK it might actually have a decent chance of success in Australia.


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