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Saturday, 24 May 2008

"Dangerous cult" boy not to be charged

Well some common sense has prevailed in the story of the young protester who was censored by police, who told him he couldn't say Scientology was a cult. It seems from this BBC story that he won't be charged.

The 16-year-old held up a sign saying, "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult". Police didn't like it. They told him to take the sign away. When he refused they threatened him with prosecution.

We learn that City of London police said they'd had complaints. From whom? From the Scientology people themselves, perhaps? It would not be surprising, since he held up the sign outside their HQ in London.

Further good news comes from the fact that human-rights lawyers are still going to make a case against the police. Well, they have to be made an example of. That's what they'd say of others in society who did twattish, stupid things of which they should be thoroughly ashamed. The story says:

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) spokesman said: "In consultation with the City of London Police, we were asked whether the sign 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."

A spokeswoman for the City of London Police said: "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 police add that their "policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice".

What took them so long to realise that we have a tradition of free speech that should be upheld?

Well, the human-rights campaigners Liberty have said they'll take action. Their lawyers represented the teenager in his legal battle. James Welch of Liberty said, "The police may have ended their enquiries into this tawdry incident but, rest assured that Liberty's enquiry will continue. Democracy is all about clashing ideas and the police should protect peaceful protest, not stifle it."

See also this James Welch piece in yesterday's Guardian.

His conclusion is this:

There are many who consider that Scientology has all the hallmarks of a cult – secretiveness, pressure on its members to cut themselves off from their former lives. If Scientologists object to this description, they should engage in the dialogue. And if they do so, they may no doubt be forceful in their criticism of their critics. It is not the role of the police to protect either side from the views of the other.

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