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Censorship Your Rights Online

UK Teen Cited For Calling Scientology a "Cult" 995

An anonymous reader writes "A 15-year-old in the UK is facing prosecution for using the word 'cult' to describe the Church of Scientology at an anti-Scientology demonstration in London earlier this month. According to the City of London police at the scene, the teen was violating the Public Order Act, which 'prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.' There's a video of the teen receiving the summons from the City of London police at the demonstration (starting about 1 minute in), and now he's asking for advice on how to handle the court case."
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UK Teen Cited For Calling Scientology a "Cult"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:40AM (#23487842)
    naming an act the "Public Order Act."

    The next thing London will do is put up posters saying that you are secure beneath the watchful eyes [samizdata.net].

    Perhaps they thought Orwell was writing an instruction manual?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:05AM (#23488122)

      This is why we need open source governance [wikipedia.org].

      If you help get the Metagovernment [metagovernment.org] established, then it will be up to the people to decide how the people are governed. Weird concept, I know.

      • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:40AM (#23488406) Homepage Journal

        Weird concept, I know.
        Yeah, keep your cult-ish ideas to yourself!
      • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @10:06AM (#23492026) Homepage
        I don't honestly know that I want the people to decide how the people are governed in a broad sort of way. In general, people as groups tend to panic. Things like the Constitution and UK Common Law may be fragile protection, but they are protection. If you'd actually asked them, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a majority of Americans would have favored an even more knee jerk reaction to 9/11 than actually occurred.

        Besides, I'm not sure how it would help in this case. Even if "the people" were making the laws there would still be a need for enforcement therefore still something resembling police. This, so far, is not a case of "government overreaching", but rather "police overreaching". The police are part of the government, but ultimately they are individuals. It becomes a case of "government overreaching" if and only if the young man is prosecuted and found guilty. I wouldn't be half surprised if the the Crown Prosecutors drop this like a hot potato.
      • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:04PM (#23493690) Journal
        The "Open Source" government may be closer than you think.

        The phenomenon of anonymous, whatever you may personally think of their current "war" on Scientology, is something rather unique in human history. We have a relatively well coordinated, well mannered, peaceful "organization" having no membership, no particular leaders, no apparent fund-raising mechanism, and no organizational structure. Rather than being coordinated by a chain of command with structured communication channels, it seems to be organized chaotically by "memes" - ideas that become something like a cliche.

        Despite all these properties which, in times past, would have been severe limitations, anonymous has now coordinated an international protest at dozens of cities around the world involving many thousands of people. This is simply incredible!

        I believe thisto be an artifact of the Internet age, and a sign of things to come. While anonymous "members" appears to mostly consist of the younger college age, remember that the college kids of today are the first generation to grow up with ubiquitous global telecommunications. Just like hippie movement of the 1960's was the first generation to grow up with ubiquitous global communications in the form of television, so does the current new generation of anonymous represent the first generation to grow up with the Internet.

        As a self-proclaimed Internet addict, I've watched anonymous with interest - the "memes" that provide so much power within anonymous apparently comprise nothing more than an idea posed by someone that others enjoyed and repeated. Anybody can throw up an idea, and the classic value of "reputation" seems to be lost, here. Ideas are presented by anyone, and when repeated by others who like the idea, they become memes. And memes are, as much, a way of doing or presenting information as it is the information itself. For example, there's a common theme in Digg articles of repeating adjectives. EG: "The lame article is lame". Of course, there's Rick-rolling, variations of "LOL", and a few others.

        Could this meme-based anonymous evolve into a world government? In a sense, it already has, because this structure of memes is already coordinating the behavior of thousands! Why couldn't this evolve into a new way of governing? My guess is that anonymous evolves into a sort of meta-government. Rather than directly become a government agency, it becomes a sort of unstructured political party that exerts considerable power at the voting booth, and is able to reinforce its power through real-life protests and events, much like those going on against Scientology today.

        Fascinating times! Watch and see!
    • by westbake ( 1275576 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:06AM (#23488134) Homepage

      Indymedia has a good article about this [indymedia.org.uk]. The protester, ironically, was objecting to "Fair Play", which is essentially harassment of any and all perceived foes. The citation identifies him and now he faces the same retaliation he objected to.

    • by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:08AM (#23488602) Homepage
      Yep. Though probably you are thinking of the wrong Orwell

      After all the church has spent a considerable amount of money on wooing that particular police department.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/nov/22/freedomofinformation.religion [guardian.co.uk]

      It is the "All animals are equal, some are more equal than the other" bit of Orwell.
      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:03AM (#23488996) Homepage
        And I avoid to call them "Church", just "Scientology" is sufficient.

        Calling them "Cult" will also lend them credibility for something they aren't.

        And by the way, isn't "Church" a Christian designation? But Scientology is a completely different thing, and has really not much to do with Christianity.

        And by the way - My opinion is that you should be able to have a religion, or copyright, but never both.

        Anyway - one person's view can be "Religion", another "Cult" and a third it can be "Lifestyle".

        • by Stellian ( 673475 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:45AM (#23489632)


          1. a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
                b. The followers of such a religion or sect.

          2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.

          3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.

          4. A usually nonscientific method or regimen claimed by its originator to have exclusive or exceptional power in curing a particular disease.

          5. a. Obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing.
                b. The object of such devotion.

          6. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.
          The Scientologysts themselves always claimed to be 2. & 3. The whole point is that they are not, they are a profit-seeking corporation.
          I think the teen can use meaning 1. without qualifying as "threatening, abusive or insulting". This was, after all, an anti-Scientology demonstration. There's nothing insulting or abusive in calling your religion false, most form of orgnised religion claim that every other religion is wrong.
          Otherwise, it should be illegal to use any kind of signs of religious nature: if I have a poster declaring Cthulhu the only God and savior, that would imply you belief in The Spaghetti Monster as the only God and savior is wrong, thereby insulting or abusive.
        • by Jester998 ( 156179 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @09:35AM (#23491614) Homepage
          Anyway - one person's view can be "Religion", another "Cult" and a third it can be "Lifestyle".
          Cult: A small, unpopular religion.
          Religion: A large, popular cult.
    • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @05:07AM (#23489722) Homepage Journal
      To nitpick: This was City of London police. City of London != London.

      City of London is just one of 30 boroughs of the city named London. Confusing, I know. To make matters more confusing, City of London have it's police force (the rest of London's policing is done by the Metropolitan Police as pointed out in the article) and City of London has it's own Lord Mayor not to be confused with the Mayor of London.

      City of London is the "original" London, where most of the settlements dating back to Roman times can be found. Now it's mainly a financial centre, and not many people live there.

      Generally City is under tighter control than the rest of London, and it doesn't surprise me that it was City of London police that acted like idiots.

  • Once again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ekhymosis ( 949557 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:40AM (#23487848) Homepage
    Once again, what would seem a basic 'right' is being brutally oppressed by an organization under the cloak of 'religion'. I wonder just how much longer this will continue? Until we are all 'clears' or cleared out of our money from the lawsuits?
    • Re:Once again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:16AM (#23488236)
      Well, when an organsation's income through its usual venues start to dry up, they turn for the courts to milk unwilling and/or casual bystanders.

      For reference, see SCO, RIAA...
  • by Merls the Sneaky ( 1031058 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:41AM (#23487858)
    Whats the difference between religions and cults? As far as I can tell they really are the same thing.
    • by Soporific ( 595477 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:43AM (#23487878)
      The number of people following them is all.

      • by Shuntros ( 1059306 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:18AM (#23488672)
        A religion is a large, popular cult.

        A cult is a small, unpopular religion.

        Is everyone clear now?
      • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @04:05AM (#23489400)
        No, a man called Steve Hassan wrote some good guidelines for the destructive behavior of cults, at http://www.freedomofmind.com/resourcecenter/faq/ [freedomofmind.com]. One key is the control over thoughts on members, insisting that they not only behave but that they think in certain ways. Scientology has this one down pat with their lie-detectors and 'auditing'. Another key factor is the pyramid scheme: Each level reports only to the upper levels, all data is centralized in thehands of a few, and any attempt to question leaders or shift dogma is met with harsh controls and even destruction of the questioning person.

        Take a look at factnet.org for some history of this cult, and take a look at Susan Meister's case and her book, 'Scandal of Scientology', or hte old Time magazine article. They claim they shut down the internal security group that harassed Susan, but they seem to have simply transferred the leading personnel to other groups, and some of them are still active. This includes Kendrick Moxon, the attorney who successfully destroyed Cult Awareness Network.
    • by cynicsreport ( 1125235 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:55AM (#23488022) Homepage

      Whats the difference between religions and cults? As far as I can tell they really are the same thing.

      A religious cult, to the best of my understanding, shows the following features:
      1) Is widely accepted to be a cult by those not involved. [like Scientology]
      2) Is secretive regarding the beliefs of its members. [like Scientology]
      3) Is secretive regarding the hierarchical organization of its members. [like Scientology]

      To me, #3 is most concerning, and the best way to be labeled as a religious cult. Notice that almost all 'mainstream' religions are not guilty of #3 (e.g., the Catholic buck stops at the Pope), and rarely guilty of #2 (e.g., Muslims can point to the Koran), and also rarely guilty of #1.
      • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:22AM (#23488280) Journal
        I think this characteristic:

        4) In order to easier manipulate them, it will try to weaken the members by severing their ties with their families and friends.

        is extremely important, for the devastating consequences it has.
        • by IntelliTubbie ( 29947 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:39AM (#23488826)

          4) In order to easier manipulate them, it will try to weaken the members by severing their ties with their families and friends.
          If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

          If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" [...] do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God ... Deuteronomy 13:6-10
      • by Omega Hacker ( 6676 ) <omega@@@omegacs...net> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:55AM (#23488508)

        A fundamental difference I see between a cult and a true religion is that members of a cult are not "allowed" to leave. A Christian might decide he no longer is one, but his Christian friends will not (generally) shun him, refuse to associate with him, actively try to harm him, or just plain hold him prisoner somewhere. A cult on the other hand fundamentally is a game of mind control, and some people are too strong to be controlled, either right up front (as in a child growing up) or as a result of new information or other change. Cults can only maintain their internal consistency if people who learn otherwise are treated as "sick" or a "traitor", and dealt with accordingly.

        Situations like this case are a direct side-effect of the fact that cults cannot take any kind of scrutiny or disagreement, even from outside their ranks. Scientology is really good at silencing any kind of debate.

        At the risk of being wildly un-PC, a short list of religions that fit this description would include not only Scientology, but Mormonism and Islam. All three of these fundamentally disallow their members from choosing not to be members, up to and including outright murder. Islam in the US may be more "tolerant", but that's only (IMO) a side-effect of being forced to work within a western set of laws. In the Middle East, a convert away from Islam tends not to live very long, unless they immigrate away as fast as they can, thereby losing their entire family, etc. As well, an ex-Mormon in Salt Lake City is going to have a very hard time buying anything, anywhere.

        (disclaimer: I'm Baptist, and mostly on the Democrat side of things with Libertarian leanings)

        • by nsayer ( 86181 ) <nsayer @ k f u . c om> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:03AM (#23488562) Homepage

          A fundamental difference I see between a cult and a true religion is that members of a cult are not "allowed" to leave.
          So Islam is a cult [wikipedia.org], then?

        • by weston ( 16146 ) * <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @03:50AM (#23489294) Homepage
          At the risk of being wildly un-PC

          More like "wildly inaccurate." At least on the Mormon front.

          a short list of religions that fit this description would include not only Scientology, but Mormonism and Islam. All three of these fundamentally disallow their members from choosing not to be members, up to and including outright murder.

          The Mormon church not only allows people to leave, there is an established process for removing your name from the records. You *will* be hassled about this if you opt to try it -- most leaders will make you ask a few times, they'll ask you if you're sure, they'll try to talk you out of it -- but in the end, they will drop you.

          There's also the easier option, which consists of simply not going anymore and avoiding the people who periodically come by to try to reactivate you. I've heard a few outlandish tales of machinations in member's lives, but for the most part, the only tool the Mormon church has is outright preaching and a bit of peer pressure. It is remarkably easy to do whatever the hell you want, especially if you have even the smallest idea of when to keep your mouth shut.

          an ex-Mormon in Salt Lake City is going to have a very hard time buying anything, anywhere.

          I'd be interested to hear how you came by this the idea that everyday purchases are affected by religious affiliation with any real frequency in Utah, because it's complete bullshit.

          There are a variety of problems I think someone who publicly leaves/denounces the Mormon church in Utah is likely to encounter, but with a few exceptions, they're pretty much all going to be directly related to coloring of social interactions with former peers inside of the church. But not only is there a significant enough non-Mormon presence inside of Utah that this wouldn't matter from an economic perspective, I don't believe I've met the Mormon that would actually refuse to sell to an ex-member.
  • by rastoboy29 ( 807168 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:41AM (#23487860) Homepage
    The boy will surely be let off, but not before the whole world hears--and SEES--the story.  All that will do is draw attention to the protest.

    I predict: Score 1 for the good guys.

    The only way this could be worse for Scientology is if the boy turns up dead anytime soon.
  • by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:45AM (#23487900) Homepage Journal

    UK Teen Cited For Calling Scientology a "Cult"
    You should have seen the original version of The Sign - there was a N but no L.

    I think he was quite well-spoken, really.
  • Oh, Great. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:45AM (#23487908) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    "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."

    That's comforting. I wonder how many American cops, politicians, etc. the cult has on its payroll? Might as well disband the FBI and enlist Scientology as our intelligence service -- they seem to be much more effective at getting away with domestic espionage and dirty tricks.
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:46AM (#23487924)
    ..of Human Rights. [wikipedia.org]. I'm pretty sure the law is in violation of Articles 10 and/or 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. [wikipedia.org].

    This court actually works and has authority to rule in these cases. Might have to exhaust the legal avenues in the UK first though.
  • 1st amendment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Robert1 ( 513674 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:48AM (#23487952) Homepage
    Gotta love it! It is disheartening that it seems every European country, and Canada too, seems to have some kind of idiotic anti-speech law(s).

    The scientology thing just serves to unmask this rather gigantic lapse in liberty. I think a better question than whether the kid is guilty or not is why you Brits have such laws. Further why aren't you outraged that such laws exist and why you aren't actively trying to overturn them? This isn't a flame but a serious question, since when the slightest bit of censorship rears its head in America we tend to jump all over it - as evidenced by the Youtube article still on the frontpage.
  • by YahoKa ( 577942 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:48AM (#23487954)
    Not legal advice, not a lawyer, but an audit.
  • I don't understand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @12:58AM (#23488062)
    Can someone explain to me how this works. Someone can be summoned because they express a non-violent opinion about a group, yet religious groups who advocate the violent over throw of the government and the establishment of a theocracy falls under protected speech. From this side of the pond, Britain clearly needs to get it's priorities straight before the movie "Brazil" because a reality.

    He may have been better off advocating the death of all Scientologists because the FSM needs their blood to build the greatest pirate ship of all time.
  • The law in question (Score:4, Informative)

    by zakezuke ( 229119 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:08AM (#23488152)
    I'm not a resident of the UK. However this info has been shared

    YT video/a> of an officer explaining the new rule [youtube.com]

    Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (c. 1) [statutelaw.gov.uk]

    I'm not in agreement, but this is the law being sited and enforced.
  • Balls of steel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:12AM (#23488188)
    From TFA:

    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".
    This action hereby has the Duke Nukem seal of approval.
  • by Ux64 ( 1187075 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:23AM (#23488298)
    I think I have to stop calling Linux users a cult before I get prosecuted.
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <robert.merkel@noSpaM.benambra.org> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:44AM (#23488434) Homepage
    The kid should consult a solicitor (Brit-speak for a lawyer) with a background in human rights issues. Liberty [liberty-hu...hts.org.uk] should be able to point him in the right direction.
  • To be precise... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:48AM (#23488466) Journal
    Scientology is a Criminal nut-cult.

    Although all cults are nuts, not all cults are criminal.


  • Plead not guilty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vorlich ( 972710 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @01:57AM (#23488520) Homepage Journal
    engage a pro bono and use your time in the witness box to introduce every single piece of evidence you or anyone else can think of to prove the case, subpoena the entire board of directors and introduce the public to their Naval Division. I should imagine the tabloids will devour this case.
    M'lud I would like to submit exhibit a) as evidence for the defense - The McLibel Case http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mclibel [wikipedia.org]
    I would hazard an ejimacated guess, however, that it will never go to trial. The again, perhaps the present government is in need of a circus to distract everyone from their present poor standings. What could be better than a cult of goats?
  • by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:09AM (#23488608) Homepage
    I want to add to what cynicsreport said earlier in this topic. The word "cult" has commonly accepted definitions, and if Scientology fits that definition, then the sign was a statement of fact.

    In particular, part of my liberal arts studies at Westmont college included multiple classes on cults (it is/was a religious school, so knowing about many flavors of cults was mandatory). We had a lengthy course on the difference between cults & religion. The main difference was secrecy, not legitimacy. A religion -- whether you believed it to be true or fake -- was an institution that had open processes. You could gain access to the teachings freely, and likely audit the finances, too. This means the institutions of Catholics, Christians, Jews, and a handful of others were "religions." Then there were other institutions like Scientology, Moonies, and lots of others that had closed processes. You couldn't audit the finances, you couldn't freely gain access to the teachings, etc. Those were cults.

    It's entirely possible that you could feel a particular cult held the truth while all religions of the world were shams. The word "cult" was not intended to imply who was right. If calling something a cult was an insult, it wasn't because the cult was crappy or false; it was because of secrecy, potential for deception regarding finances, and so on. And not surprisingly, when you fall back on the dispassionate definition, it gets really hard to refute it even if you DO take it as an insult. If someone says you're holding documents in secrecy and you say "That's an insult" well... ARE you holding documents in secrecy? If so, you're feeling insulted by the truth. In such a case, I don't really feel that a state should compel people to lie.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 21, 2008 @02:10AM (#23488620) Homepage Journal
    I know this is a lot to ask, but please get the facts right.

    He hasn't received a summons.
    He's not being taken to court.
    He was warned, by a somewhat overzealous police officer, that he might have been in breach of the law, and he had his sign confiscated.

    The Crown Prosecution Service, who are the people who decide whether a prosecution will take place, have been told that these events happened. And will decide whether to proceed. If anyone wants to bet $10 to say they will, I'll gladly take your money here and now.

    That's it.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.