More legal protection for religion – an outrageous sentence

April 23, 2010 at 5:41 pm (Champagne Charlie, religion, secularism)

From the National Secular Society :

The sentencing of Harry Taylor to six months in prison (suspended for two years) for leaving anti-religious cartoons in an airport prayer room has been condemned by the National Secular Society as “creating a new blasphemy law that will open the way for every religious extremist to persecute and prosecute their critics.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said: “Regardless of the fact that this six month sentence has been suspended, it is still totally out of proportion for what Mr Taylor did. Nobody can deny that he was being deliberately provocative in leaving these rather mild cartoons, cut from Private Eye, in the prayer room, but in the end he didn’t harm anybody and was simply making a point about the existence of such a facility. The chaplain could quite easily have simply thrown the papers in the bin.

“Instead, she claims to have been hurt and offended by this material, which makes her ultra sensitivity a dangerous thing indeed. The professional ‘offence takers’ in religious communities will now feel that they have a strong new weapon to use against anyone who is critical or disapproving of them. It is, in effect, a blasphemy law that covers all religions and is much more powerful than the one that was abolished only two years ago.”

“Religiously aggravated offences represent a new kind of blasphemy law, and the professional offence takers in religious communities won’t be slow to exploit this new avenue of restricting criticism and comment about their beliefs. It is time for parliament to reconsider these provisions and remove them from the statute books.”

Mr Sanderson said that Mr Taylor describes himself as a “militant atheist” who wanted to challenge the existence of the “prayer room” particularly as it was situated on John Lennon Airport in Liverpool – he maintained that John Lennon was an atheist and would not have approved of the presence of the prayer room.

<b>Knob head</b>: Chief biscuit-muncher not shown sufficient respect 

  One of the images left by Harry Taylor


  1. Lobby Ludd said,

    Of course the prosecution, let alone sentencing of Harry Taylor is unacceptable.

    He does seem to be a bit of a wally, though. What’s with the bit about objecting to a prayer room particularly because it was in an airport named after an atheist? Is there some special kind of offence operating here in Mr Taylor’s mind – doing things which might offend a dead atheist?

  2. Rosie said,

    Crap isn’t it? I can imagine the local cycling pressure group being “offended” if someone pushed leaflets covered with quotes by Jeremy Clarkson,through their letter box or gentlemen’s clubs taking umbrage if someone left a heap of the equivalent of Class War in the smoking room, but the idea that you could actually call in the law is unbelievable.

    (If I was wanting to annoy the ghost of John Lennon I’d leave a lot of Paul McCartney posters and recordings lying about).

  3. Janine said,

    I think the point about the specific airport is that it has the lyric “Above us only sky” emblazoned in big letters on it. Maybe the designers thought it was just a bit clever to quote a Lennon lyric with an ‘air’ theme at an airport, but they really ought to know that it is an atheist lyric.

  4. Sir John Game said,

    Well, he got what he deserved really. Of course, had the subject of these images been my beloved Islam, I would have had this bastard stoned to death. And yet I still call myself a socialist.

  5. shug said,

    I thought the prayer room was parliament.Is it not customory for those honourable persons, to open their sitting, with observance to the crown and god.

  6. Rosie said,

    Imagine there’s no heaven
    Give that thought a bash,
    No hell below us,
    Above us only ash!

    Imagine is a horrible maudlin dirge. When you see the video that goes with it of John & Yoko wearing white in a white house and playing a white piano you want some punk to break in with a spray can.

    Re religious aggravated offence – could the secular society shop someone who had left leaflets telling them they were going to hell with pictures of them burning in the flames? Probably not – and anyway they would only laugh and chuck them. Of course in this instance the chaplain should have just binned the leaflets, but there have been crimes where the criminal had obviously intended to further outrage the feelings of the victim and/or their family eg a Muslim woman’ whose corpse was covered with pieces of bacon. Performing a humiliation on a victim is supposed to aggravate a crime, isn’t it? And there are instances when the humiliation takes a specific religious cast eg tearing off a Muslim woman‘s hijab. So I suppose there can be charges of assault with a deliberately humiliating component which in many instances takes on a specifically religious form. However, this should not cover leaving around printed materials.

  7. Andrew Coates said,

    Perhaps Amnesty International will take this case up…

  8. maxdunbar said,

    ‘could the secular society shop someone who had left leaflets telling them they were going to hell with pictures of them burning in the flames?’

    In that scenario the religious group would argue that it had a right to prolysetise under secular law – as indeed it does.

    The intellectual left would agree with this completely and accuse the NSS of being hysterical militant atheists/secular fundamentalists etc. If the religious group was Christian, the Daily Mail would claim that UK Christians are being persecuted and we would have Red Maria et al in this comment thread saying the same. If the religious group was Islamic fundamentalist then of course Galloway/Milne/Newman etc would weigh in with similar arguments.

    There is no way such a complaint would make it to court. This is an academic point of course because as Rosie points out no secularist group would be so silly and oversensitive as to report the matter to the police.

  9. Rosie said,

    I wish the Secular Society would do a test case of this. Pics left on their premise of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins etc being poked by demons with pitchforks. A terrible torment in hell for Hitchens where he is given a locked mini-bar but no key.

  10. shug said,

    Tell that too our youth,or are we still figuering how to invole them.

  11. Ophelia Benson said,

    How to invole them? Certainly not. It’s all about how to enstoat them now.

  12. Rosie said,

    OB – you visit us very rarely and only when you’ve ferreted out a typo (or dyslexia – I don’t know how to account for Shug’s writing style).

  13. skidmarx said,

    Please assume obvious joke about “weasel words”.

  14. manicstreetpreacher said,

    I attended the sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown Court. See my opinion pieces on my own blog before and after.

    Mr Taylor seemed like a perfectly rational individual who wanted to make a point. I seriously doubt whether he would have been punished so severely if he had left caricatures of Gordon Brown at Labour Party offices across the country.

  15. Rosie said,

    I’ve read both your posts on this, manic – .

    “There is a time and place for talking people out of their faith and there are ways and means of doing it. Perhaps leaving deliberately provocative cartoons in a prayer room is not the best way to go about it.”

    That’s what I thought – I can imagine prayer rooms in airports being filled with people who are on their way to visit sick members of their families, or are in other ways are distressed, so I wouldn’t think it was the place to proselytise. (Actually there should be other places for quiet and contemplation in airports – indoor gardens or what have you to get away from the gross commercialism of the place).

    But making this a case for the police is outrageous.

    “Taylor’s Anti-Social Behaviour Order bans him from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.”

    That‘s such utter crap.

  16. maxdunbar said,

    I think that is right. Taylor did a silly thing but it did not in any way need police involvement.

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