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Censorship Government Politics

UK Prosecutors Say 'Cult' Acceptable 357

Posted by kdawson
from the move-along-nothing-to-see-here dept.
An anonymous reader notes that following our discussion this week about the 15-year-old who was under threat of prosecution for calling Scientology a cult in a recent demonstration, the UK Crown Prosecution Service has decided that there is no case to answer. They have issued new guidance to the City of London police clarifying when they can use their public order powers. Quoting: "A [CPS] spokesman said: 'In consultation with the City of London Police, we were asked whether the sign 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.' A spokeswoman for the City of London Police said: 'The CPS review of the case includes advice on what action or behavior at a demonstration might be considered to be "threatening, abusive or insulting." The force's policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice.'"
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UK Prosecutors Say 'Cult' Acceptable

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  • by Swampash (1131503) on Friday May 23, 2008 @08:58AM (#23516080)
    ...the Cult of Scientology is about to ask for its money back.
    • by LockeOnLogic (723968) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:11AM (#23516162)
      Nah, they'll just take away some of their thetan points.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:49AM (#23516578)
      Dear Swampash:

      It has come to our attention that you have made an unauthorized use of our copyrighted work entitled Cult of Scientology (the "Work") in the preparation of a work derived therefrom. We have reserved all rights in the Work. Your post entitled 'Watch out, City of London cops...' illegally utilizes our Work. By using the name Cult of Scientology you have violated our copyrighted work.

      As you neither asked for nor received permission to use the our name as the basis for 'Watch out, City of London cops...' nor to make or distribute copies, including electronic copies, of same, I believe you have willfully infringed our rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as $150,000 as set forth in Section 504(c)(2) therein.

      I demand that you immediately cease the use and distribution of all infringing works derived from the Work, and all copies, including electronic copies, of same, that you deliver to us, if applicable, all unused, undistributed copies of same, or destroy such copies immediately and that you desist from this or any other infringement of my rights in the future. If I have not received an affirmative response from you by April 1, 2009 indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, we shall take further action against you.

      Very truly yours,
      Terryeo
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2008 @11:07AM (#23517802)
      For those that don't understand the parent post, read about the Cult of $cientology bribing the cops. [bbc.co.uk]

      I wonder how much would City of London Police go for on eBay? Pretty cheap probably.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jd (1658)
        Several senior members of the London police service are also said to be members or heavily aligned with it, in addition to any bribes or handouts. This won't reach the scandalous proportions of West Midlands Serious Crime Squad (the entire squad was itself investigated for carying out serious crimes) but frankly I'd regard it as being on a similar level. A corrupt and degenerate police force cannot - and should not - be tolerated in any western nation.

        Interestingly, if any action were to take place, it wo

  • by Corporate Troll (537873) * on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:02AM (#23516100) Homepage Journal

    Every religion is a cult, just a popular one. Scientology isn't popular in any definition of the world and as such "cult" is very appropriate.

    • Cult != Religion (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:14AM (#23516188) Homepage Journal
      Now, I'm an athiest, but I can't stand the misuse of terminology, even if it feels clever to do so.

      Cults engage in serious mind control. Religions are just a set of spiritual principles. For example, there are some Christians who worship in a cult-like society, and some that do not.

      To those who want to cite bible passages, you're missing the point. It is the current behavior of the group that defines this, not what's in their books.

      Anyone who studies scientology will know how intense their brainwashing is, and since I was once part of a Christian church that was not a cult, I know it is as different as night and day.

      Cult behavior is along the lines of 'removing subject's ego, connections outside the church, ability to question doctrine', and these factors can sometimes be found in any religion, but are not attributed to the whole set of that religion.

      Since the Church of Scientology is a hierarchal organization, it can be classified as a cult, but there are practitioners of Scientology beliefs in the 'Freezone' which do not answer to the CoS command and are not cultlike.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)
        > Cults engage in serious mind control. Religions are just a set of spiritual principles.

        If you really believe this then I suspect that you have not been subjected to a "religion" firsthand.

        When contemplating "religion as cult" you also have to consider those that are in a poor position
        to fend of against "mere persuasion".

        Also, the term cult itself is something that has become demonized and not used in it's original
        context. It's meaning has already been twisted.
        • by Angostura (703910) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:59AM (#23516694)

          If you really believe this then I suspect that you have not been subjected to a "religion" firsthand.


          And if you really believe that it is impossible to distinguish between the level of coercion leveled on a member of say the UK Church of England and say Scientology hen I suspect that you have not been subjected to a cult firsthand.
          • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:55AM (#23517642)
            If thats not coercian of the worst kind I don't know what is. And it was a part of the roman catholic church - a supposed religion.
            • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Friday May 23, 2008 @12:03PM (#23518604) Homepage
              Wow if that's the standard by which you judge religions, and presumably the actions that must be taken to stop them, you must be advocating for nuking mecca.

              Because by the standard of amounts of violence and death used to keep the cult/religion together, islam certainly spans the crown by a margin of at least a few hundred million deaths :

              http://www.scribd.com/doc/2342790/Hindu-Indian-History-Islamic-Invasion [scribd.com]

              About 100 million people died, and that's counting only 1/3rd of the eastward expansion of islam, in about 400 years, and that's the low death toll estimate.

              The inquisition is less than a grain of sand with it's estimated death toll of about 2000 (lowest) to about 50000 (highest).

              So in comparison : the largest ever problematic section of Christian history caused 1/2000 th the amount of deaths as ONE muslim religious expansion war. And that's using the highest death toll estimate on the christian side and a low one of the muslim side (otherwise it'd be 2000 versus 300 million).

              At the westward side of expansion there were a lot of cultures in the way of the muslims. Hardly a trace remains : Egyptians, Tunisians, Carthage, the Berbers, tons of Jewish kingdoms, twice as many small Christian kingdoms (and we're hardly 1/6th of the distance westward, one can only imagine the amount of culture lost)

              So tell me, what do you think ?
            • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday May 23, 2008 @12:12PM (#23518724) Homepage
              If thats not coercian of the worst kind I don't know what is. And it was a part of the roman catholic church - a supposed religion.

              Uh-huh. And I suppose then it would be fair to judge a modern day practitioners of non-religion (i.e. atheism) by the actions of Soviet Russia, and the millions of Christians slain?

              Surely there are no differences of time and place. Clearly I must fear to reveal that I am a Christian lest I be sent to a Siberian gulag to work or freeze myself to death, just as you today must feverishly espouse your faith in Jesus lest you be tortured to death. Strange that they could both be true at the same time, though...
      • Re:Cult != Religion (Score:5, Informative)

        by Justin Hopewell (1260242) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:29AM (#23516326)
        From Merriam-Webster:

        cult

        1: formal religious veneration : worship
        2: a system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
        3: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
        4: a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
        5 a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad b: the object of such devotion c: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

        I would say Christianity and any other religion falls in line with this. It doesn't necessarily have to have a negative connotation, but that's generally how its used.

        And if you want my two cents, church is just as much a brainwashing tool as an e-meter.

        Agnostically yours,
        Justin Hopewell
        • Re:Cult != Religion (Score:4, Informative)

          by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Friday May 23, 2008 @11:55AM (#23518488) Homepage Journal
          I blanche at using the Webster's dictionary to solve the debate...as you can see they have 5 definitions.

          Perhaps my goal is to sensibly define the radical difference between the Church Scientology and say, the Epsicopal Church.

          Saying they are both cults waters down the human rights abuses of the CoS. If you haven't studied how the CoS operates, I recommend it. It is a fantastic look at merciless authoritarian control.
      • Cults engage in serious mind control. Religions are just a set of spiritual principles. For example, there are some Christians who worship in a cult-like society, and some that do not.

        Exactly. If you lump religions in with actual cults just because you don't subscribe to their religious beliefs, then you might as well call any group of people with similar beliefs and values a cult. Vegetarians? Cult! Athiests? Cult! Republicans? Cult! Democrats? Cult!

        Of course, this is totally ridiculous and reduce

      • by Tom (822) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:47AM (#23516542) Homepage Journal

        Cults engage in serious mind control. Religions are just a set of spiritual principles. For example, there are some Christians who worship in a cult-like society, and some that do not.
        And in the real world, the boundaries are not always easy to define. There is no binary difference. All we can say is that on the extreme end, very strong cults have obvious and serious differences from very relaxed religions. But inbetween, they mingle and mix.

        Remember, for example, that the catholic church only accepted freedom of religion in the early 60s. Before that, leaving christianity behind was as unthinkable according to the official church doctrine, as leaving Scientology is today.
      • by zmooc (33175)
        Your description is rather subjective; each religion involves at least at bit of "convincing". When convincing becomes brainwashing depends is hard to tell. I do think you're right in your distinction between cults and religions, but it should be noted that this distinction is made on purely subjective criteria. One important aspect that should be noted, is that in the case of scientology this brainwashing is often performed on adults, which makes it rather visible. In most other religions, new members are
      • by mpe (36238) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:54AM (#23516634)
        Cults engage in serious mind control. Religions are just a set of spiritual principles. For example, there are some Christians who worship in a cult-like society, and some that do not.

        Also not all cults are religious. Psychotherapy and politics can also be the basis for a cult.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by xous (1009057)
        The dictionary definitions of the word seem to differ from yours.

        The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists five different definitions of the word "cult."[15]

        1. Formal religious veneration
        2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also: its body of adherents;
        3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents;
        4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phunctor (964194)
      A cult is a religion whose founder has not been dead long enough.
      --
      phunctor
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323)
      Every religion is a cult, just a popular one.

      Indeed, there is an argument that we shouldn't have to distinguish between cult and religion - it's a shame that saying "Scientology is a dangerous religion" isn't enough.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AndyTheSayer (965008)
      I am in the UK, and had thought that Scientology had been legally deemed 'not a religion' in this country (they wanted to be a religion for e.g. tax purposes). I could be somewhat out-of-date, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mgblst (80109)
        I know that happened in Germany (why are they the more sensible government all of a sudden), but not in the UK.
    • so true but the use of the word in the vernacular has rendered the meaning of the word useless. We live in a state of "feelings" now instead of rationality thus the "politically incorrect" movement which seeks to gag freedom of speech in the US. Although it seems obvious now that Britain still doesn't have freedom of speech so perhaps my point is moot.
  • i would say amongst the slashdot community it certainly is, but in wider society, its a simple descriptor of a small religion. you may happily supply the negative connotations of calling something a cult, but as these judges wisely ruled, the negative connotations are not automatically implied

    if the student held up a sign saying "bill gates is a geek", amongst the 13 year old male jock contingent, this is a horrible slander. but with the rise of the internet, its almost a compliment, especially as "geek" implies new wealth nowadays
    • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:14AM (#23516182)

      The CPS isn't made up of judges, it's the Crown Prosecution Service; they're solicitors. They decide whether there's a case to charge someone with a crime or not. In this case they decided, rightly, that there wasn't. It didn't even get in front of a judge.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        (That's actually a bit of generalization; it's also responsible for actually prosecution people if they do decide there is a case.)

    • It is insulting(it implies brainwashing and other unethical behaviors), but it is correct when applied to CoS.
    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:26AM (#23516314)
      In Latin there is no difference between "Cult" and "Religion" -- its the one word. The State Religion was "Cultus Deorum" -- cult of the gods. At a very basic, technical level, there is nothing wrong with the term.

      On the other hand, in the age of middle east mega-religions, it's pretty much taken on the meaning of "unpopular, wrong, pseudo-religious scam," which Scientology also clearly is.

      Then again the term "pagan" -- ie, a country-dweller (analogous to the Germanic "heathen" -- dweller in the heath) because of Christianity, too.

      but the point is, Scientology is only out there confuse reality and roll you for your wallet -- same as every other religion.

      • by bsDaemon (87307)

        Then again the term "pagan" -- ie, a country-dweller (analogous to the Germanic "heathen" -- dweller in the heath) because of Christianity, too.
        Oh, sorry -- this is what happens when you post to slashdot in the middle of also writing for work. That should have read: "Then again the term "pagan" -- ie, a country-dweller (analogous to the Germanic "heathen" -- dweller in the heath) has become confused because of Christianity, too."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by postbigbang (761081)
      By your broad definition, any community is a small religion, and that's not true. There is a common bond, but Slashdot users are more like what Kurt Vonnegut called a grandfaloon, which is a gathering of individuals with no overt tying bond, like the Order of Elks. While Elks are a philanthropic group and that's their bond (as in fraternal), the ties here are topics of nerdish/computing bonds. But even though the LinuxOphiles, MacFanBois/girlz, WindowsDefenderz, and the hackers bond, slashdot is not a small
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by esocid (946821)
      Bill Gates bites the heads off chickens in a carnival.
      There, that's what I meant by geek.
    • I agree that this decision is a good one. But I wonder...How would they rule on someone holding up a sign that says, "homosexual behavior is sinful"? Would that be seen as "threatening, abusive, or insulting"?

      Should it be? If so, why?
  • But has replacing an 'S' with a dollar sign ever been tested in court? It is a powerfully clever insult, but that makes it all the more likely to be noticed. I am afraid of taking on both Microsoft and Scientology united.
  • The bigger porblem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:06AM (#23516130) Journal
    The bigger problem is addressing the effective infiltration by $cientologi$t$ of various police farces and justice departments.

    It shall be remembered that 20 years ago, the cult of $scientology was deemed a criminal organization in Ontario after it infiltrated the Ontario Ministry of Justice and proceed to trash their evidence file. The Supreme Court of Canada has also recently ruled so.

  • by pmsbony (933376) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:11AM (#23516158)
    he should be thrown in jail.His description of scientology as a cult was sadly one letter out.
  • Nice to see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CapitalC (1234410) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:15AM (#23516202)
    that there is somewhere in the world where the system works rationally and figures itself out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If it was working the boy would never have been approached.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lysse (516445)
      Kind of. Sometimes the perception arises that it's tougher to get cases accepted by the CPS than it is to get a guilty verdict out of a jury, though, so I never for a second believed this one would go the distance. What's nice is to hear them basically demolish the idea that there might have been a case and dress down the City of London police, rather than saying that prosecution would "not be in the public interest" or something equivalent.
    • Re:Nice to see (Score:4, Informative)

      by skeeto (1138903) on Friday May 23, 2008 @11:00AM (#23517720)

      Actually, I would bet that this is exactly what those Scientology nuts wanted to happen. Thanks to the Fair Game [wikipedia.org] policy, identified critics of the Scientology get harassed or may even "disappear". These things are happening right now. This is why you see people wearing masks at the Scientology protests.

      Now this guy has been clearly identified. They now know his name and where he lives. Getting in trouble for some kind of "hate crime" thing is way better than having the cult of Scientology harassing you the rest of your life. Having the case thrown out isn't much of a victory at all.

  • You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:18AM (#23516236) Journal
    I saw that Ontario is passing (or passed, maybe) new hate crime legislation that's limited to offenses against a "vulnerable minority". If the law is going to be applied selectively to defend only groups the prosecutors care about, it seems preferable to just state it up front like they're doing.
  • by sherpajohn (113531) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:20AM (#23516254) Homepage
    ...a rose by any other name is still a cult. Good news!
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:21AM (#23516262) Homepage
    So using the word "cult" is not insulting or offensive, so he gets away... well, good for him, but that's the wrong principle. Freedom of speech is serious business, damnit! Everyone must have the right to insult and offend and wipe the butt clean on the holy books of every damn religion out there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by techpawn (969834)

      Everyone must have the right to insult and offend and wipe the butt clean on the holy books of every damn religion out there.

      If you're defense of your religion is in the courts when you are offended by someone then both your religion and your faith in it is weak. Perhaps you should take another look at your faith and where it is placed.
      I may not like you bashing my faith but won't it do more good to debate you about the merits of my faith than to threaten legal action against you? Who knows I may get you t

    • by CmdrGravy (645153)
      Well broadly I agree with you but there are various laws in the UK which do restrict what you can say publically that have recently been used to lock up muslims for saying things like "Death To Non Muslims".

      I happen to think that on balance this is a good thing and it's nice to see that the legislation doesn't appear to be being used irresponsibly so innocent things like what this lad has done do not get people in trouble.

      The big win of course is that any future protests in this area and throughout the coun
      • by Hatta (162192)
        there are various laws in the UK which do restrict what you can say publically that have recently been used to lock up muslims for saying things like "Death To Non Muslims".

        I happen to think that on balance this is a good thing


        I don't. It just validates their persecution complex, and encourages them to go underground. Let them say what they want, and everyone will know who the crazies are and avoid them.

        Like it or not, advocating Sharia law is political speech. If they can silence their political speech,
  • by HungSoLow (809760) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:26AM (#23516312)
    Bart: Church, cult, cult, church. So we'll get bored someplace else every Sunday. Does this really change our everyday lives?
  • by ilikejam (762039) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:27AM (#23516320) Homepage
    How appropriate.
  • Pope's cult? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Baavgai (598847) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:30AM (#23516332) Homepage
    While I don't disagree, I can't help but wonder how things would have gone if the statement was "The Anglican church is a dangerous cult." The wording of the ruling basically says this is criticism and is fine. It will be interesting to see this tested.

    All negative connotations aside, the only functional difference between a cult and a religion is popular acceptance and usually membership size.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slim (1652)

      While I don't disagree, I can't help but wonder how things would have gone if the statement was "The Anglican church is a dangerous cult."
      You'd get ignored as a harmless loony.

      Anonymous get noticed because they're right.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:32AM (#23516350)
    You're not fooling anyone, buddy.
  • See ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:45AM (#23516522) Journal
    The scientology planned on loosing this one...

    http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=559324&cid=23489324 [slashdot.org]
  • by magpie (3270) on Friday May 23, 2008 @09:59AM (#23516696) Journal
    I was just rummaging about and I discovered and interesting tit bit it appears in Scotland they are not allowed to call themselves a religion [wikipedia.org]. If they are not a religion and can't call themselves that what do they characterize them selves as? (I really should look into that, as I live there...hmm might be able to get them into trouble)
  • by QX-Mat (460729) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:08AM (#23516786)
    This isn't a major liberties issue.

    There have been several major changes to British liberties recently - the Terrorism Act is the beast behind almost all of them. Those changes - such as the outright ban on demonstrating near parliament and the requirement of express permission in order to do so nearby - are completely distinct from what has happened here.

    Also, don't confuse the recent legal order curtailing legitimate demonstrations to a specified area either (Brian Haw [parliament-square.org.uk] has been protesting the Iraq war outside of Parliament for 6 years!)

    What has happened here is quite simple: an irate Scientologist who doesn't know the Public Order Act as much as the officer involved, persuaded a PC to halt the demonstration because of the wording on the sign.

    This was a mistake by the officer based upon the facts and wording of the sign which, as the CPS said, cannot be deemed to be threatening, insulting or abusive (Public Order Act).

    The "cult" description of Scientology is now a matter of fact within UK (there's an EU opinion too) born from the obiter of Justice Latey from a 1984 high court ruling which the sign incongruously quoted.

    The officer should have better exercised his office of constable, chosen to read what written, and make up his own mind (in the UK a police officer is responsible for his own actions, he cannot be commanded by those senior to do anything he does not believe is lawful - he is personally liable for what he does and does not, save for contractual/employment obligations). Here the PC showed he was inadequately aware of the Public Order Act which permits the 15 year old's protest.

    The CPS was right. They did the lawful thing. It would never have gone to court from the get go. It is an utterly laughable mistake by the PC that even Lionel Hutz would have recognised!

    I hope the London constabulary involved is property briefed on their public order duties. I personally feel this was entirely avoidable - especially since R(Laporte) [fairfordco...ion.org.uk].

    Matt
  • Scientology Tactic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EnvyRAM (586140) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:17AM (#23516952) Homepage
    Scientology doesn't really care about winning these cases. One of their tactics to cause fear and control people is by prosecuting and harassing them. This is nothing new!
  • That spelling error on his sign turned out to be fortuitous. "Scientologists are complete cults."
  • by darthflo (1095225) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:27AM (#23517118)
    Strangely enough, $(cent)i(euro)nt(currency)£(currency)g¥ is the only word I could think of containing all of c, e, l, o, s and y. An interesting connection, really.
    Also, neither cent, euro or generic currency symbols are supported with or without JS in the new discussion system, making this post way less funnier :/
  • How funny there's... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EddyPearson (901263) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:30AM (#23517160) Homepage
    No mention of what's going to happen to the police who have have abused their power. Probably the same thing that happened to the chaps who shot that poor Charles de Menezes eight times in the head without provocation, nothing.

    What ever happened to the days of the local Bobby? Friend to all law abiding citizens, there to help and not hinder. Nowdays when you REPORT a crime they're rude to you.

    What the fuck happened?
  • by Thaelon (250687) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:30AM (#23517168)
    Religion: A large, popular cult.
    Cult: A small, unpopular religion.
    Thinking for yourself: Awesome.
  • by sherriw (794536) on Friday May 23, 2008 @11:47AM (#23518364)
    It's a crime to insult someone?

    I thought that hate speech, inciting a crime, or defamation are the only types of speech that are illegal?

    So what does freedom of speech mean then if you can't insult anyone or any organization? It's negative criticism generally insulting?
  • Have a look.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Friday May 23, 2008 @12:44PM (#23519178) Homepage
    http://www.enturbulation.org/ [enturbulation.org]

    Theres apparently going to be a big protest on June 14th 'At A City Near You'.

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