This is the paragraph in the letter I received from Ric Lucas of Colquhoun Murphy, describing the two claims his client, Melinda Tankard Reist, intends to use as the basis of a defamation action against me:
For instance you assert that Melinda Tankard Reist is a member of a church that preaches the second coming off [sic] Christ, the end time, evangelism and that sex filthies the human female and renders her impure. You claim that “Tankard Reist is a Baptist.” This is simply false, yet you have erected an entire panoply of criticism upon it. And you finish your attack by alleging without the slightest evidence that our client is “deceptive and duplicitous about her religious beliefs.
This is false and unwarranted, and seriously defamatory.
It seems to me that the primary “seriously defamatory” alleged offense is describing his client as a Baptist. My contested post is here.
Whether or not Tankard Reist worshipped at Belconnen Baptist church regularly or occasionally remains unclear. However, she did participate in a forum at that church in 2009 alongside speaker Sheridan Voysey. The forum was called “The Quest for God” and was part of the church’s “Inspiring Christian” series:
“Sheridan will speak at both 8.45am and 10.30am services as part of their ‘Inspiring Christians’ series, alongside Tim Costello, Melinda Tankard-Reist and others.”
This doesn’t prove MTR is/was Baptist, only that the Belconnen Baptist church thought highly enough of her to invite her to participate as an inspiring Christian. I assume that Tankard Reist at that time did not think as badly of Baptists as she apparently does now, given her intention to sue over being described as one of them. If she felt so badly about Baptists then, one would think she would be most unlikely to participate in that church’s events.
Tankard Reist was also associated with the Salt Shakers, a conservative Christian group founded by two Baptists in 1994. Again this does not mean MTR is a Baptist. However, it does indicate that she didn’t think badly of that religion, and she was willing to write for their journal. These writings are not available online, however I’m told they can be found in the State Public Library.
Tankard Reist also wrote for the Endeavour Forum. Here is their mission statement:
Endeavour Forum was set up to counter feminism, defend the unborn and the traditional family. (“A feminist is an evolutionary anachronism, a Darwinian blind alley”.)
Tankard Reist’s writings for Endeavour are not available online, but may also be found in the State Public Library
There’s plenty of information about Baptist beliefs on the internet. While I wouldn’t claim Wikipedia as a faultless source, in the matter of describing the beliefs of a mainstream religion, it’s hard to go wrong. It’s not rocket science.
However, better than Wikipedia is the information from the Baptist Union of Australia. Baptists, as I claimed, do indeed believe in the doctrine of the virgin birth, the second coming of Christ, and the end times when the righteous will be taken to heaven, and the unrighteous will be punished and condemned.
I am willing to concede that many Baptists likely don’t interpret the virgin birth as do I and many, many others. However, disagreeing on the interpretation of a story was not, last time I looked, grounds for defamation.
In my opinion, someone who has strong links to a religious community over a long period of time, and then attempts to sue someone who writes about those connections, is likely being evasive on some level. And I wonder what those Baptists think about their religion being used as grounds for defamation?
Ms Tankard Reist also requires a prompt apology and retraction by a signed letter, in terms to be agreed with this firm, and which should also be published on your blog “No Place for Sheep.” She also requires payment of her legal costs.
She reserves her right to damages for defamation.
We note that this is a concerns notice pursuant to s126 of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 and is not for publication.