Media Release – 12 May 2014

Free Speech: Balancing human rights and responsibilities

Humanist Society of Victoria reaffirms Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Humanist Society of Victoria honours and upholds the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We respect every person’s entitlement to freedom of belief, speech and association, including the right to hold dissenting views.

Humanists encourage the practice of vigorous discourse that is predicated upon mutual respect and co-operation. We are concerned with improving the well-being of all humanity and believe that rational, informed debate can contribute to such improvement.

Nevertheless, we realize that any exercise of belief or speech must have practical limits within a diverse, multicultural and harmonious democracy. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no one may exercise their human rights – including their right to free speech – in any way that would detract from the human rights of others. The Declaration also guarantees the equality, safety and welfare of all people, and places obligations upon governments to protect their citizens from all forms of harm.

While Humanists oppose excessive restrictions on the exercise of free speech, such as the ‘Move On’ Bill which was recently enacted by Victorian Parliament, we also recognize that concern for the safety and protection of vulnerable individuals must be paramount in any civilized society, and that free speech should not be used as a weapon to harm, vilify or threaten others.

Humanists respect the common humanity of all people, and reject any abuse of free speech that would promote intolerance, injustice, discrimination or harm. We note and endorse Commonwealth and State laws that prohibit racial and religious vilification.

Victorian Humanists oppose any move to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. We ask the Australian government to protect vulnerable individuals and minority groups from exposure to hatred, harm and vilification, and to honour its obligations to help create a cohesive and fair society for all Australians.

Contact Stephen Stuart, Secretary, Humanist Society of Victoria Inc. at victorianhumanist@gmail.com