Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The 'c' word: an update

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Following on from Caspar's earlier post concerning the 15-year-old who was handed a court summons by the City of London police for displaying a banner branding Scientology a cult, it's our pleasure to report that further developments have held up the legal right to use the dreaded 'c' word (see you last Tuesday, maybe?).

It turns out that once the Crown Prosecution Service looked into the matter they decided that use of the word is neither "abusive or insulting" and dropped the case against the boy. He had been taking part in a protest organised by the anti-Scientology group Anonymous outside the church's headquarters near St Paul's on 10 May and was issued with the summons for inciting religious hatred under the Public Order Act after he refused to take down a banner saying "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult".

As reported in the Guardian, a CPS spokesman explained the decision as follows: "In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which read 'Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult', was abusive or insulting. Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness, as opposed to criticism, neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression. No action will be taken against the individual."

And the City of London force's reaction is great news for both free speech and the protesters, who can now cult away to the heart's content at future demonstrations: "The CPS review of the case includes advice on what action or behaviour at a demonstration might be considered to be threatening, abusive or insulting. The force's policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice."

Meanwhile, Anonymous protesters in Edinburgh deserve a huge pat on the back for the success of their preemptive move to ensure the same thing doesn't happen to them while protesting in the Scottish capital. They contacted the city council to check the 'c' word wouldn't land them in trouble, to which an official replied "I understand that some of the signs you use may display the word ‘cult’ and there is no objection to this."

So, congratulations to Anonymous both north and south of the border and, in support of what seems to be a newly-guaranteed freedom to use the 'c' word in public, I'd just like to declare that Scientologists are all a bunch of cults.


Martin Poulter said...

The latest episode of this saga isn't good news: Birmingham Anonymous Rapid Reaction Force (a branch of Anonymous that counters Scientology recruitment) have been told by police that if they call Scientology a cult (on placards or flyers) in future they will be arrested for religious hatred. The Scientologists have claimed "harassment" for merely being debated with. The council has fined Anonymous for distributing (on litter grounds - even though they were clearing up litter after themselves).
This is being discussed now on forums.enturbulation.org - look for the thread about BARRF.