Disturbing Religious Worship

– section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 1966

disturbing religious worship


Disturbing Religious Worship is when someone upsets people gathered for religious reasons. It could also be if someone assaults the person leading the worship.

Examples of Disturbing Religious Worship
  • Some people run into a Mosque during Friday prayers and begin to yell insults to the worshippers
  • Someone punches a Catholic priest during Mass
What are some of the possible defences to a Disturbing Religious Worship charge?
  • You did not disturb anyone
  • You did not wilfully disturb any religious worship
  • You have a lawful justification or excuse

There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions that are asked in cases like this:
  • What are they saying actually happened?
  • Did you have a lawful excuse?

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with this charge

The maximum penalty for this offence is 15 penalty units or imprisonment for three months.

Disturbing religious worship is a case that would be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.


“Did you disturb any religious worship?”
What is the legal definition of Disturbing Religious Worship?

Wilfully, and without lawful justification or excuse, disquieting or disturbing religious worship. Or assaulting a person lawfully officiating the religious worship.

The Law

The section that covers this offence is section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.1

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

You are most likely to receive a fine if found guilty of this offence.

[1] Summary Offences Act 1966 – Section 21

(1) Any person who wilfully and without lawful justification or excuse, the proof of which lies on him, disquiets or disturbs any meeting of persons lawfully assembled for religious worship or assaults any person lawfully officiating at any such meeting or any of the persons there assembled shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: 15 penalty units or imprisonment for three months.
(2) A prosecution for an offence against this section shall be commenced within three months after the offence is committed.