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What a c**t, eh?

steve platt | 20.05.2008 18:49 | Repression | Social Struggles | London

The Church of Scientology, religiously aggravated crime, the City of London police force and a kid with a placard

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I thought the police must have misread his writing when I saw that a 15-year-old was facing prosecution for his use of the word ‘cult’ on a protest placard. Another word beginning with ‘cu’ and ending with ‘t’ maybe. But not even the numbest of skulls could have thought that calling scientology a cult was beyond the legal pale – could they?

Well, it seems the City of London pointy-heads could – and did. They consfiscated the kid’s placard at a demo outside the scientologists’ spanky-new £24 million HQ near St Paul’s on 10 May and sent a case file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

I’ve no doubt that the CPS will drop the case post-haste. But there are a couple of things that are more than a little disturbing about it ever having got this far.

The first is the CPS’s comment to the Guardian, who broke the story today: ‘In April, prior to this demonstration, as part of our normal working relationship we gave the City of London police general advice on the law around demonstrations and religiously aggravated crime in particular.’

Now we were given firm and repeated assurances when the notion of ‘religiously aggravated crime’ was first introduced to British law by the New Labour government that it would not in any way impact upon our right to freedom of speech, or our ability to criticise particular religious groups or religion in general. In this case it clearly has – and will continue to do so. If referring to Scientology as a ‘cult’ is considered impermissible, what chance is there for anyone wanting to make the case that the Virgin birth may be no more than a ‘fairy tale’ or the Holy Qu’ran an ‘epileptic’s fantasy’?

The second potentially disturbing factor in this case is that it is the City of London police who are involved. This is the same police force that was forced to admit at the end of 2006 that its officers ‘had been accepting invitations, dinners and gifts from the Church of Scientology worth thousands of pounds. Details of how the religious movement appeared to be cultivating officers in the force were revealed in a freedom of information inquiry made by the Guardian.’ And it is the same police force whose chief superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised the, er, cult (we can discuss the precise meaning of the word in court) for ‘raising the spiritual wealth of society’ at the official opening of its headquarters earlier that year. These facts are, of course, entirely unconnected.

steve platt
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