Friday, 30 May 2008

Clampdown on anti-Scientology protestors in Birmingham

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A blog reader has kindly alerted me to the latest development in the great British Scientology 'c' word saga. As protesters from the group Anonymous gained significant victories for the right to use the word 'cult' in London and Edinburgh, activists in Birmingham seem to have become the subject of a clampdown by local police.

According to a comment left on my previous post on this matter, and to chat on the Anonymous discussion board Enturbulation, the Birmingham Anonymous Rapid Reaction Force (BARRF) have were warned by police on 28 May that if they display the word 'cult' on banners they can be arrested for inciting religious hatred. As if this wasn't enough, they were also told that they can't use megaphones in the city centre, and four members were fined for handing out flyers without a licence (on littering grounds, by environmental officers from the local authority).

Given the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to the London case – that the use of the word 'cult' "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" – the position of the police in Birmingham hopefully won't be able to stand for too long. As for the leafleting problem, members of Anonymous have identified that licences are not required when handing flyers "where the distribution is for political purposes or for the purpose of a religion or belief", which they believe covers their actions in protesting against Scientology.

Let's hope so – we wish them luck.

[Thanks to the commenter who put me on to this story. Also, if you're involved in any of this we'd love to hear from you. Comments on posts are always welcome, but also feel free to contact us]


DavidMWW said...

Unbelievable. Strathclyde police are at it as well.

James said...

It is worth noting that in each case so far as different law has been applied. In London it was the Public Order Act 1986, in Glasgow the offence of "breach of the peace" and in Birmingham two laws are in play:

(1) The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, under which the fines were issued (despite there being a clear exemption for material distributed for political purposes).

(2) The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, regarding the threat of arrest for using the word "Cult". Yet this Act also has an explicit protection of criticism and ridicule of religion built into it.

Anonymous said...

This is hardly surprising. Remember the extraordinary and outragous actions of West Mids police and the local CPS in complaning to ofcom about the 'Undercover Mosque' documentary. At the very least it gives the impression of a political and / or religious agenda within the police and CPS. The police frequently overstep their powers in tackling political or religious dissent. GHo armed with an understanding of the law - it's more than the cops have.