Forever Hold Your Peace or Face Two Years Imprisonment

It’s not the greatest secret in the legal world that many jurisdictions are slow to repeal outdated legislation. Likely owing to the fact that the world is only 6000 years old, most of these crazy old laws are based on religion.

It is illegal to disrupt a wedding or any other religious ceremony in South Australia.

The Summary Offences Act was enacted in 1953 and is patient zero for dopey South Australian laws.

token patient zero.gif

Under s7A of the Act, it is illegal to disrupt a religious ceremony including weddings or funerals. The section creates an offence for disrupting a ceremony regardless of the person’s intent.

S7A(1)(a) creates an offence for disrupting a religious ceremony, whilst s7A(1)(b) creates an offence for disrupting a ceremony in a way that is designed to be offensive. This would suggest that an offence under s7A(1)(a) is intended to cover all behavior that in any way disrupts a wedding. The creation of an absolute liability offence is recognised as generally requiring explicit language from the legislature due to the serious implications, but nonetheless, the language remains open to find this.

This is potentially why the South Australian rom-com movie industry has never taken off.

Mrs Bouvier!

The craziest part is that I haven’t gotten to the crazy part yet. The Act may have been created in 1953 when all those Australian beaus were returning from the end of the Korean war, but section 7A was only added in 1992.

In 1992 Cartoon Network was created, Bill “eating ain’t cheating” Clinton was sworn in as President and South Australia outlawed disrupting weddings. There is no doubt in my mind that the three are closely connected.


During the Christmas shopping season in 1997, Daniel Pfeifer wore a Dead Kennedys’ t-shirt with the logo “too drunk to fuck” whilst walking around the Adelaide shopping centres.

too drunk.jpegMr Pfeifer was charged under another section of the Act relating to general offence caused in public places, but the Court considered it similar to s7A and discussed that a mental element must be read into the act by implication.

The question remains unsettled, which is unfortunate for our purposes, but probably fortunate for South Australians. I could not find any instance of definitive judicial instruction on just how extreme the section could be applied. I guess the SA constabulary really needs to become a whole bunch more prescriptive before we get some good guidance.

An offence under s7A carries a fine of up to $10,000 or 2 years imprisonment.