Reported in the Guardian this week …
A teenager is facing prosecution for using the word "cult" to describe the Church of Scientology. The unnamed 15-year-old was served the summons by City of London police when he took part in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the controversial religion. Officers confiscated a placard with the word "cult" on it from the youth, who is under 18, and a case file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.
A date has not yet been set for him to appear in court. The decision to issue the summons has angered human rights activists and support groups for the victims of cults.
The incident happened during a protest against the Church of Scientology on May 10. Demonstrators from the anti-Scientology group, Anonymous, who were outside the church's £23m headquarters near St Paul's cathedral, were banned by police from describing Scientology as a cult by police because it was "abusive and insulting".
Writing on an anti-Scientology website, the teenager facing court said: "I brought a sign to the May 10th protest that said: 'Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.' Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector." A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and "strongly advised" him to remove the sign. The section prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting. The teenager refused to back down, quoting a 1984 high court ruling from Mr Justice Latey, in which he described the Church of Scientology as a "cult" which was "corrupt, sinister and dangerous".
After the exchange, a policewoman handed him a court summons and removed his sign. On the website he asks for advice on how to fight the charge: "What's the likelihood I'll need a lawyer? If I do have to get one, it'll have to come out of my pocket money."
Liberty director, Shami Chakrabarti, said: "This barmy prosecution makes a mockery of Britain's free speech traditions. After criminalising the use of the word 'cult', perhaps the next step is to ban the words 'war' and 'tax' from peaceful demonstrations?" Ian Haworth, from the Cult Information Centre which provides advice for victims of cults and their families, said: "This is an extraordinary situation. If it wasn't so serious it would be farcical. The police's job is to protect and serve. Who is being served and who is being protected in this situation? I find it very worrying. Scientology is well known to my organisation, and has been of great concern to me for 22 years. I get many calls from families with loved ones involved and ex-members who are in need of one form of help."
The City of London police came under fire two years ago when it emerged that more than 20 officers, ranging from constable to chief superintendent, had accepted gifts worth thousands of pounds from the Church of Scientology. The City of London Chief Superintendent, Kevin Hurley, praised Scientology for "raising the spiritual wealth of society" during the opening of its headquarters in 2006.
Who is it, exactly, that makes decisions about which words are "offensive" and which are not? And do they actually speak English as their first language? It would appear not.
The word "cult" means "system of religious worship especially as expressed in ceremonies; devotion or homage to person or thing (especially derogatory of a transient fad)" - Concise Oxford Dictionary. Not particularly offensive, then, and very appropriate to Scientology, which was invented by L.Ron Hubbard, a rather bad science fiction writer, who in the late 1960s and early 1970s cruised the Mediterranean in a small fleet of Scientologist-crewed ships. He was attended by "Commodore's Messengers," teenage girls dressed in white hot pants who waited on him hand and foot, fixing his shower and dressing him and even catching the ash from his cigarettes. He had frequent screaming tantrums and instituted brutal punishments such as incarceration in the ship's filthy chain-locker for days or weeks at a time and "overboarding," in which errant crew members were blindfolded, bound and thrown overboard, dropping up to 40 ft into the cold sea, hoping not to hit the side of the ship with its sharp barnacles on the way down. Some of these punishments, such as imprisonment in the chain-locker, were applied to children as well as to adults.
Wikipedia says "Scientology and the organizations that promote it have remained highly controversial since their inception. Former members, journalists, courts and the governing bodies of several countries have described the Church of Scientology as a cult and an unscrupulous commercial enterprise, accusing it of harassing its critics and abusing the trust of its members".
In the mid-1960s the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, the Australian state of Victoria and the Canadian province of Ontario all held public inquiries into Scientology's activities, and Hubbard was kicked out of Rhodesia.
In 1969 the Greek Government branded him and his 200 disciples "undesirables". In 1977, Scientology offices on both coasts of the United States were raided by FBI agents seeking evidence of Operation Snow White, a church-run espionage network. Hubbard's wife Mary Sue and a dozen other senior Scientology officials were convicted in 1979 of conspiracy against the United States federal government, while Hubbard himself was named by federal prosecutors as an "unindicted co-conspirator." The IRS had evidence that he had skimmed millions of dollars from church accounts and secreted the funds to destinations overseas.
In 1978, as part of a case against three French Scientologists, Hubbard was convicted in his absence of "making fraudulent promises" and given a four year prison sentence and a 35,000 franc fine by a French court.
In 1984 a British High Court judge gave a judgement calling Scientology "dangerous, immoral, sinister and corrupt" and "has its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard."
Some L.Ron Hubbard quotations …
"They smell of all the baths they didn't take. The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here."
Describing Tibetan Buddhist temples … "The people worshiping have voices like bull-frogs and beat a drum and play a brass horn to accompany their singing. Very odd and heathenish".
"Unlike the yellow and brown people, the white does not usually believe he can get attention from matter or objects. The yellow and brown believe for the most part ... that rocks, trees, walls, etc., can give them attention"
"the African tribesman, with his complete contempt for the truth, and his emphasis on brutality and savagery ..."
"You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion"
The GOS says: I think I can put my hand on my heart and say, with little fear of contradiction, that L.Ron Hubbard was a sinister loony and that Scientology is indeed a dangerous cult.
I would be quite happy to discuss this statement with any representative of the police, the CPS, or indeed the Church of Scientology.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2008 The GOS
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