Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Guardian reports that prosecutors have decided not to press charges for inciting religious hatred against a 16 year old who held a sign saying Scientology was a “dangerous cult” during a protest in London.

A teenager who was facing legal action for calling the Church of Scientology a cult has today been told he will not be taken to court.

The Crown Prosecution Service ruled the word was neither “abusive or insulting” to the church and no further action would be taken against the boy.

But frankly, I don’t like the decision. I’m glad the kid doesn’t have to face such charges in court, but I don’t think anyone should ever face such charges in court and I don’t like the fact that the prosecutors are clearly playing games with the law in order to subjectively avoid prosecuting this case while retaining the power to prosecute others. They decided that the sign was not “abusive or insulting” but in fact it clearly is insulting. He didn’t call them a “dangerous cult” as compliment.

The real issue here is not that what he said was not insulting – it certainly was – but that whether it is insulting or not he has the legal right to say it because no one has a right not to be insulted, and especially not to have their religion insulted. Religions are ideas and ideas are always open to criticism. Criticizing someone’s religion may well be insulting to them, but that is absolutely irrelevant to whether the statement is A) true and B) protected speech.

The prosecutors haven’t fixed the problem, they’ve only subjectively ignored the text of the law and applied it in an arbitrary manner. That makes it worse, not better.