UK Religious Hatred Law

 Law abuse by the authortites



5th March
2010
  

Updated: Threatening to Make a Mockery of the Law...


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Campaigner prosecuted for religious hatred with claims that cartoons are 'threatening'
Adam paintng

  By the way, I've just invented blasphemy
Thought you'd like a bit of fun

A campaigning atheist who left leaflets mocking Jesus Christ, the Pope and the Koran in the prayer room of an international airport has gone on trial charged with religious harassment.

The materials left by Harry Taylor at Liverpool's John Lennon airport included one image showed a smiling Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of no nails glue. In another, Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise are told: Stop, stop, we've run out of virgins.

A further cartoon showed two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: Not for women or gays, obviously.

Taylor, a self-styled philosophy tutor, denied bearing a grudge against people of faith and said he was only trying to convert believers to atheism. He said: The airport is named after John Lennon and his views on religion were pretty much the same as mine. I thought that it was an insult to his memory to have a prayer room in the airport.

The leaflets were discovered by Nicky Lees, the airport chaplain, who told the court she felt deeply offended and insulted by their contents. [But didn't mention feeling threatened].

Outlining the case against Taylor, prosecutor Neville Biddle said that he had gone beyond freedom of expression by leaving the insulting, threatening and abusive images in a room used for worship. He said: Of course people have a right to speak freely and have a right to insult people. It is one of the most important rights we have and it must be jealously guarded ...BUT... it is a right not without some prescription. Mr Taylor exceeded that right.

The defendant from Salford, Greater Manchester is charged with three counts of religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act. The alleged offences took place on separate dates in November and December 2008.

Taylor denied the charges and said it was preposterous to suggest that people could be incited to violence by the cartoons. He said: I am not hostile to religious people but I am hostile to religion. He told the court that he adapted cartoons cut out of newspaper and magazines like Private Eye and added captions of his own.

The images shown to the jury included a drawing of the Pope with a condom on his finger, and a picture of a woman kneeling in front of a Catholic priest captioned with a crude pun. In another image sausages were were labelled as The Koran .

The trial continues.

Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006

Based on article from opsi.gov.uk

29A Meaning of “religious hatred”

In this Part “religious hatred” means hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.
Acts intended to stir up religious hatred

29B Use of words or behaviour or display of written material

(1) A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.

29C Publishing or distributing written material

(1) A person who publishes or distributes written material which is threatening is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.

29J Protection of freedom of expression

Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.

Update: A Disgraceful Verdict

5th March 2010. Based on article from liverpooldailypost.co.uk

The jury of ten women and two men, at Liverpool Crown Court took just 15 minutes to find Harry Taylor guilt of religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress after viewing the grossly abusive and insulting images in court.

Harry Taylor is now on bail awaiting sentencing on 23 April. Religiously aggravated offences carry a potential seven-year prison term.

The National Secular Society have supported Taylor. They claim that new laws dealing with religiously aggravated offences amount to a blasphemy law in another guise.

Terry Sanderson, president of the society, said: This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law. It seems incredible in the 21st Century that you might be sent to prison because someone is 'offended' by your views on their religion . . . Mr Taylor struck me as slightly eccentric and he acted in a provocative way, challenging the necessity for the prayer room. He didn't cause any damage and he didn't harm anything, nor was he threatening or abusive. Yet he might still end up behind bars because some Christian has decided they are offended.

In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently.

 

26th April
2010
  

Corrected: A Mockery of Justice...

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Campaigner sentenced for public order offences over religiously insulting cartoons
Sermon on the mount

  Love your neighbour...
Not gays, obviously

Harry Taylor left home made posters at Liverpool John Lennon Airport three times in November and December 2008.

The self-styled philosopher was convicted in less than an hour by a unanimous jury.

Among the posters, one image showed a smiling crucified Christ next to an advert for a brand of no nails glue. In another, a cartoon depicted two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: Not for women or gays, obviously. Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise were told in another: Stop, stop, we've run out of virgins. One image showed a pig excreting sausages with insults to Islam, and others linked Muslims to attacks on airports.

Unemployed Taylor, on medication for depression, said it was preposterous to suggest people could be incited to violence by cartoons.

It emerged that Taylor was previously convicted of similar offences. The previous December he was arrested handing out offensive leaflets in Waterstone's book store in Deansgate, Manchester. Police discovered he had also visited a nearby Tesco and unplugged the Christmas music because he found it offensive.

Taylor had also visited two city centre churches, St Ann's Church and St Mary's, known as the Hidden Gem. Inside he left leaflets including a picture of a monk making a finger gesture with the caption Father Fucker .

Judge James told him: Not only have you shown no remorse for what you did but even now you continue to maintain that you have done nothing wrong and say that whenever you feel like it you intend to do the same thing again in the future.

He was sentenced to six months in jail suspended for two years, ordered to perform 100 hours' of unpaid work and pay £250 costs. He was also given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order banning him from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.

Update: Distressed by Catch All Law

26th April 2010. From Harvey on the Melon Farmers Forum

Are we sure that Mr Taylor was convicted of an offence under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act?

The reports suggest the offence was that of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress, which would be under Part 1 of the Public Order Act 1986.

4A Intentional harassment, alarm or distress

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

It is not necessary for there to be a racial or religious aspect to the offence, but if it is racially or religiously aggravated, it becomes triable in Crown Court and the maximum sentence is increased from 6 months or a fine to up to 7 years.

The Blair government added the racially aggravated aspect in 1998 and extended that to include the religiously aggravated offence in 2001, but the Public Order Act was introduced by the Thatcher government.

 

23rd July
2010
  

Update: A New Inquisition...

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Civitas reports on blasphemy laws making a come back under the Public Order Act

New Inquisition Jon Gower Davies Hate legislation removes an increasing quantity of matters traditionally dealt with in civil society to the domain of the state and the courts. In a new report from the independent think tank Civitas, A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today , Jon Gower Davies, formerly the Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University, reveals the bizarre and oppressive nature of judicial attempts to prosecute individuals for religious hatred - this new legal concept has resulted in some singularly worrying court cases.

Blasphemy Law by the Backdoor

The Blasphemy Law was abolished in 2008, but has re-emerged in a new and radically augmented guise. Today, individuals are not charged with blasphemy, but with causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act. Jon Davies argues that the growth in accusations of hate crime threatens freedom of speech because they destroy the possibility and practice of open, sociable and critical discussion of religion.

Hatred in the legal sphere

Whilst the total number of racial and religious hate crimes fell from 13,201 in 2006-7 to 11,845 in 2008-9, the volume of hate legislation has rapidly expanded. Yet legal definitions of hatred are elusive. A government action plan states: A (religious) hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a persons religion or perceived religion.

In addition, hatred is not only presented as an offence on its own account, but can also be seen as something which aggravates ordinary public order offences. When an ordinary offence is aggravated by hatred based on race, religion, gender, or age, then the sentence too is aggravated (i.e. increased).

Judges become theologians!

Jon Davies argues that these definitions are without substance, and inevitably result in confusion and silliness in their application. The attempt to define a hate Incident in terms of hostility results in perilous imprecision: it is not possible to know when individuals have been hated - or, indeed, when they have themselves been hating! - and for how long and to what depth and to what effect. The essence of the criminal justice system should be justice and impartiality, but turning religious hatred into a criminal offence turns police, the Crown Prosecution Service and judges into surrogate theologians - a kind of theocracy (an uncomfortable theocracy at that) by the backdoor.

Are judges, even judges giving the "right" verdict, so qualified in theology that they feel able to offer doctrinal guidance? Is the Crown Prosecution Service so prudent in its understanding of "religious hatred" that it should be free, with no penalty for error, to mobilise the power and resources of the state against ordinary citizens who make comments about religion?

A danger to freedom of speech

One of the great triumphs of liberalism has been to separate the discovery of factual truth from the assertion of religious doctrine. And yet, when Judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case against the hoteliers, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, in December 2009, he commented that it might be best for individuals not to engage in discussions about religion! As a result: It becomes "wise" to "be careful", to restrict the compass of what we say about what we believe, or do not believe, or about what others believe or do not or should not believe, and to turn what were once vigorous public conversations into a frightened, if safe, if amiable and fundamentally humourless chat about small and dwindling things. (p.49)

Because freedom of speech is the prevailing view in Britain, we are not as alert to the risk of its overthrow as we should be. The freedom to speak our minds without fear or favour is worth fighting for. In A New Inquisition , Jon Davies shows why the liberal majority needs to reassert the convention that the law should be used not as a weapon to suppress unpopular opinions, but rather as the protector of free speech.

 


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