A key element of this revised bill is an attempt to distinguish between attacks on beliefs and attacks on believers, the former to be allowed, the latter disallowed but it is a distinction which, like so much of this bill, is of laudable intent but which in my opinion is doomed to fail. Beliefs are only invested with life and significance by believers. If you attack one, it is very difficult to claim that you are not attacking the other, because the believers are the only people who invest the beliefs with significance or can take responsibility for them. You wouldn't need to ridicule the beliefs if noone believed them. From a comedian's point of view, you cannot make a joke about a belief or a practice without characterising it in human form. Every joke has a victim and with a religious joke, it is bound to be a practitioner, even if the target is the practice.
I am not attempting to defend freedom of speech merely on behalf of my self and a few comedian friends. Freedom of speech is not the preserve of the white liberal or the black agnostic. I wish the oxygen of free expression to be available to all but it is not enjoyed by all and where its availability is most poor is often within religious communities. The very nature of a religion is that you subscribe to its beliefs at the expense of some of your individual free expression, the degree of sacrifice required depending on the nature of the faith, so it is hardly surprising that it is factions within religious communities who have lobbied so hard for this legislation. Those who are most keen to stifle the free expression of others are often those who do not enjoy true freedom of expression themselves. And therefore fear it.
I saw the second of these on The Age website but I've not been able to link it, so have reverted to the original from the UK Daily Telegraph for the link. The Age story has a great headline "Bible belt around the ears as oldtime religion takes a hold" and an even better cartoon (by Cathy Wilcox) entitled "Wrestling for the Word", which depicts a wrestling match with an audience member saying "...now they're acting out the bit where Jesus gets Satan in a headlock..."
Will this be liable to prosecution in the UK if Rowan Atkinson's views are not heeded? Are there Australian laws which could be used for similar purposes?