A NSW-based blogger has been ordered to take down material from his site that described a small and mysterious religious order as a “satanic paedophile cult”. A Canberra tribunal found that the material was archetypal hate speech.
In January last year, David Bottrill complained to the ACT Human Rights Commission that he had been discriminated against because of his membership of the Ordo Templi Orientis.
He said blogger John Sunol operated a number of sites which had publicly vilified him on the basis of his religious conviction.
Mr Bottrill said the allegations made against him and the organisation were all untrue.
In the complaint, which was referred to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Mr Bottrill said he wanted the pages removed and an apology. He later also asked for compensation.
In a decision published last month, the tribunal describes the blog posts as asserting that the Ordo Templi Orientis is a “satanic paedophile cult”, and that they had a picture of Mr Bottrill next to that description.
“In addition, ‘child rape’ and ‘boy murder’ are words used to describe [Mr Bottrill] and adherents of the OTO,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal found against the blogger and ordered he remove the posts and refrain from publishing similar content in the future.
Mr Bottrill did have the religious conviction he had described, the tribunal said, and Mr Sunol’s blog content would “incite, among other responses, hatred and contempt towards [Mr Bottrill]”.
“The acts ascribed to him and his religion were written in totally undisciplined language and with no attempt to provide any evidence that might warrant such claims. To use the vernacular, it is archetypal hate speech,” tribunal Senior Member Bryan Meagher SC said.
“As Mr Sunol, himself, said, ‘We all have our own rights to our beliefs and own religions, our own areas of theological belief. Mr Bottrill has his rights. I have my rights’.”
At the hearing, Mr Bottrill said the Ordo Templi Orientis was about 100 years old and that it had been created out of a collection of Masonic rights in Europe.
“Since about 1912 it’s been the main vehicle for promoting the religion of Thelema … It’s a religion based on revelations given to and then published by Aleister Crowley.”
The tribunal heard there were probably about 100 members of the order in Australia at any one time.
The tribunal referred to an earlier decision in a separate matter involving Mr Bottrill in which a Professor Douglas Ezzy from the University of Tasmania described the order as a small religious movement modelled on Freemasonry.
Professor Ezzy, a member of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group and the American Academy of Religion, said he thought it was “extremely unlikely” that child sacrifice, paedophilia and cannibalism were “systemic or organisationally organised aspect” of the order.
Mr Sunol told the tribunal he did not write the offending post and therefor should not be held responsible. He said he took it down as soon as he became aware of it. He said he could not apologise to Mr Bottrill because he was a pentecostal Christian.
He also said the site had about 2400 hits a day and told the tribunal he was bankrupt, agreeing that he was immune from orders for the payment of money.
Mr Sunol eventually took the content down after Mr Bottrill contacted him.