Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Welsh councillor in trouble for calling Scientology "stupid" on Twitter

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When Cardiff councillor John Dixon visited London last year to buy a wedding ring for his wife to be, a stroll past the "Dianetics and Life Improvement Centre" on Tottenham Court Road (just round the corner from our office, as it happens) prompted him to make the following quip on Twitter:
“I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”
A relatively innocuous statement, wouldn't you say? And when you consider the history of the Church of Scientology (just have a look at some of our past pieces on them here, here and here), you might be tempted to observe that a) "stupid" doesn't really cover the half of it, and b) a Welsh councillor making a quip about them on Twitter ought to the least of their worries.

After posting this initial message, and another one on discovering that a Scientology Twitter account had started "following" him – “Just realised the Scientologists are following me. Quick everyone, pretend you’re out” – Dixon presumably thought no more of it and carried on looking for the wedding ring.

What he almost certainly didn't anticipate was that six months down the line, in December last year, the Church of Scientology would make a complaint against him to Wales' public services watchdog. Dixon is now facing a disciplinary hearing and, according to this report on Wales Online, the watchdog said he "is likely to have breached the code of conduct for local authority members". A date has yet to be set for the hearing and Dixon has said he will not comment until proceedings are complete.

This story is a worrying reminder of the Church of Scientology's determination to pursue its critics whenever possible, no matter how trivial the "offence" committed against it. It has prompted a show of support for Dixon on Twitter, where many users are currently attempting (successfully, at the time of writing) to make the tag "#StupidScientology" into a "trending topic" which, for those of you who are (for better or worse) unversed in Twitter-speak, would mean it would be one of the most talked about subjects on the site in the UK today. If you're a Twitter user, why not go and take a look?

[The photo used here is one I took across the road from the Scientology centre on Tottenham Court Road when I visited a protest by "Anonymous" there in 2008]


Anonymous said...

if Scientology is indeed a church as it seems to be according to tax laws, then I think it is reprehensible to make derogatory comments against them as with any religion. This is a sacred matter to their members.As for the man who called them stupid, that is free speech. So which is the plum? Free speech or Freedom of religion? Tough choice there. On the other hand six months is a long time to stew on a hapless remark and to enact revenge. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Was this done on council time or using council equipment? If not, then what has his opinion got to do with his job?

Either way, the Hubbardistas need to learn that this sort of vindictiveness will do them no favours whatsoever.

Barry said...

@Anon 15:25 - Why should it be regarded as reprehensible to make derogatory comments about them, or any other religious group? People in the UK have the freedom to belong to any religious group they choose; that's freedom of religion. What they do not have is the right not to be offended or ridiculed. That is free speech.

Plus my understanding is that Scientology is regarded as a philosophical, rather than religious, belief for legal purposes in the UK, meaning that it does not qualify for tax exemption as a religious group. What the tax laws in other countries may be is irrelevant, as this story is about a councillor based in the UK.

Anonymous said...

"Which is the plum?" You're confusing your freedoms here. Freedom of Religion gives one the right to BELIEVE whatever one is stupid enough to believe. It does NOT grant ANY freedom of action based on those beliefs. Freedom of Speech is just that--the freedom to speak your mind. Speaking against a religion is everyone's right and if the religion in question can't stand up to someone else's free speech....TOUGH BANANAS, JULIUS.

Anonymous said...

Stupid, stupid Scientology.


Eiskrystal said...

Perhaps it took them 6 months of quivering under the bedclothes before they could get enough bullies together to go complain about one welsh government employee.