Police have again been accused of "trampling on basic rights" after ordering protesters to take down banners accusing Scientology of being a cult.
Officers banned the placards during a demonstration against the self-styled church in
Glasgow city centre last weekend. Civil liberties campaigners have warned a dangerous precedent is being set for the suppression of free speech.
Strathclyde Police's intervention follows a similar incident in London last month when a youth was
left facing prosecution. The 15-year-old had refused to remove a sign stating Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.
Human rights lawyer John Scott said: This latest incident sets a dangerous precedent and I hope
the police do not have to be taken to court for them to accept the right of free speech.
Last Saturday's demonstration was organised by Anonymous, an anti-Scientology group. Its members protest where the church is holding public sessions.
Strathclyde Police admitted officers had stopped activists using the word "cult" after receiving a complaint. A spokeswoman said: The word is not a breach of the peace in itself. However, in this case it was exacerbating the situation
and our stance was that we had to remove that.
Last night, Anonymous - a leaderless, internet-based group - said it had recovered the banners and would be launching a fight to use the word.
A human rights group has pledged to take action against a police force which tried to prosecute a teenager for branding Scientology a "cult".
The 16-year-old faced prosecution after refusing to get rid of a placard which said Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult
at a protest outside the church's headquarters in London on 10 May.
He was told that his sign breached the Public Order Act, which makes it an offence to display a sign that is threatening, insulting or abusive, but the Crown
Prosecution Service said no action would be taken against the teenager.
The human rights group Liberty, whose lawyers have been advising the boy, is now considering action against the City of London Police.
City of London Police have been made to look exceedingly foolish following their issuing of a court summons to a teenager for displaying a sign that branded Scientology a “dangerous cult”.
And today the boy' s protest was vindicated when the
Crown Prosecution Service ruled the words were neither “abusive or insulting” to the church and no further action would be taken against him.
The unnamed 16-year-old was handed a court summons by City of London police for refusing to put down a
placard saying Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult during a peaceful protest outside the church' s headquarters near St Paul' s Cathedral earlier this month.
Police said they had “strongly advised” him to stop
displaying the sign but he refused, citing a high court judgment from 1984 in which the organisation was described as a cult. The summons was issued under the Public Order Act on the grounds that the sign incited religious hatred.
A file was
passed to the CPS, which today told City of London police it would not be pursuing the boy through the courts.
A spokeswoman for the force 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 force' s policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice.
A CPS spokesman added: In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which
read ‘Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult' , 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. No action will be taken against the individual.
City of London police have been cracking down hard on religious intolerance this week and on one four letter word in particular – CULT. And when does the word cult become illegal? Curiously only when it' s applied to the Church of Scientology (CoS) -
and in the Square Mile.
Around two-hundred anti-Scientology protesters gathered outside the CoS London base on Queen Victoria Street last Saturday as part of a day of action. Sporting Guy Fawkes masks, many carried signs accusing the organisation
of being a cult. They were greeted by a number of City of London Police.
Two officers approached one 15-year-old who was wearing a huge-nosed mask and holding a sign saying Scientology is not a religion – it is a dangerous cult.
was handed a pre-printed warning by a WPC stating, The sign you are displaying commits an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 .. you are strongly advised to remove the sign with immediate effect.
One cop told SchNEWS' man on the scene that,
the idea is that if somebody gets prosecuted there will be a test case Police were clearly out to protect CoS' s reputation with one officer telling us, Our solicitors at the Crown Prosecution Service have advised us that any signs saying
‘Scientology is a cult' could be deemed offensive. They are being treated as a religious organisation for the purposes of today.
Ten minutes later and the cops returned. The youth was chased up an alleyway and then forced to hand
over his details for a court summons.
So why the sudden desire to defend Scientology so strenuously? Maybe because the scientologists and the City of London Police appear to have a rather cosy relationship, with Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley
speaking at the opening of the London HQ in October, saying the science-fiction cultists were raising the spiritual wealth of society.
21st May 2008
The case was described as "barmy" and an attack on free speech by Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, the human rights group.
She said: "They will be banning words like
'war' and 'tax' from placards and demonstrations next. This is just barmy."