Atheist’s sentence signals ‘a new and dangerous blasphemy law’ in the UK:
THE National Secular Society has condemned the sentence imposed on a Liverpool atheist who left leaflets mocking religion in the prayer room at John Lennon Airport (Motto: “Above us only sky”).
Harry Taylor, 59, denied three counts of causing religiously aggravated harassment during his trial at Liverpool Crown Court, but yesterday was found guilty by a jury. He was sentenced to six months in jail suspended for two years, ordered to perform 100 hours’ of unpaid work, pay £250 costs and given an Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo).
The NSS said the sentence was the manifestation of:
A new blasphemy law that will open the way for every religious extremist to persecute and prosecute their critics.
NSS President, Terry Sanderson, 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 [Nicky Lees] 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.
Sanderson said that Taylor describes himself as a “militant atheists” 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.