Philosophy tutor and atheist Harry Taylor in court for leaving anti-religious cartoons in John Lennon airport

The telegraph is covering the news of “militant atheist” Harry Taylor who left leaflets mocking Jesus Christ, the Pope and the Koran in the prayer room of an international airport, and has now gone on trial charged with religious harassment.

Telegraph:-

The materials dumped by Harry Taylor at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport included “sexually abusive and sexually unpleasant cartoons”, a jury heard yesterday.

One image showed a smiling Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue. In another, Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise are told: ” Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.”

A further cartoon showed two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.”

Mr Taylor, 59, a self-styled philosophy tutor, denied bearing a grudge against people of faith and said he was only trying to “convert” believers to atheism.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that he left the materials in John Lennon airport as a tribute to the former Beatle, whose most acclaimed solo work Imagine referenced “a world with no religion”.

He said: “The airport is named after John Lennon and his views on religion were pretty much the same as mine. I thought that it was an insult to his memory to have a prayer room in the airport.”

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Now before I go any further, I want to make clear that I would probably find the material left by Harry Taylor a mix between humorous and distasteful, however, I do accept that I have a somewhat warped and deviant sense of humour.

This material was found by chaplain Nicky Lees and here is a snippet of her reaction as reported in the Liverpool Daily Post:-

She said: “I was insulted, deeply offended and I was alarmed. I was so concerned that I rang the duty manager and the airport police. I was alarmed other people could come in and see these items and also feel offended and affronted and I was responsible for the prayer room.”

So, this material so alarmed chaplain Nicky Lees, that she felt prompted to involve the airport police.

To be frank with you it is astounding that some Christians can muster the courage to leave their homes. Would you not have simply chucked the crap in the bin? OK, so the police did become involved, but is it not astonishing that they charged Harry Taylor with three counts of religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act?

Am I missing something perhaps?

MediaWatchWatch, probably have the sanest take on the whole matter.

There is some consolation for hyper-sensitive Christians however, as they are not alone:-

Scottish Sun:-

Muslims’ fury at ‘holy city’ boozer

A MUSLIM leader has blasted a pub for using the name of holy city Medina – branding it an insult to his religion.

The boozer in Dundee changed its name from Bar Rio to Medina Bar and Grill after a renovation.

But this has sparked outrage – as Saudi Arabian city Medina is the second-holiest site in Islam behind Mecca.

Medina is also a term used for a market or trading centre in north African cities.

But Mohammed Bashir Chohan, chairman of the Dundee Islamic Society, last night said: “People are upset about it because Medina is a holy city. It does hurt when somebody misuses the name, especially if they are going to sell liquor.”

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Perhaps Muslims and Christians can band together to protect themselves from “alarm”, “outrage” and “offence”, oh hold on, they just did:-

Christian Institute – Muslims help lift library ban on Christian poster

Of course the irony is that maybe the library and council staff felt alarmed, offended and affronted at the poster advertising the Women’s World Day of Prayer :lol:

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71 Responses to “Philosophy tutor and atheist Harry Taylor in court for leaving anti-religious cartoons in John Lennon airport”

  1. Susan Says:

    Webmaster, he’s been convicted

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8549613.stm

    Anti-religious campaigners have condemned the conviction of a “militant atheist” who left rude images in Liverpool Airport’s prayer room.

    The National Secular Society called for the “draconian” law used against Harry Taylor to be changed.

    Taylor, 59, of Griffen Street, Salford, admitted at Liverpool Crown Court religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

    The Crown Prosecution Service said each case should be treated on its merits.

    The atheist admitted leaving images of important religious figures in sexual poses but said he was simply challenging the views of others.

    The chaplain at the airport, who was “severely distressed” by the discoveries in November and December 2008, immediately reported the images to the police, prosecutors said.

    Taylor, who has been released on bail, will be sentenced on 23 April.

    The maximum sentence for such an offence is seven years in prison.

    Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said the prosecution had brought blasphemy laws “in through the back door”.

    ‘Slightly eccentric’

    He said: “This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law.

    “It seems incredible in the 21st Century that you might be sent to prison because someone is ‘offended’ by your views on their religion.

    “The blasphemy law was abolished three years ago, but it lives on under the guise of religiously aggravated offences and is several times more dangerous.

    “Mr Taylor struck me as slightly eccentric and he acted in a provocative way.”

    He added: “In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently.”

    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it treated each case on an individual basis.

    A spokeswoman said: “All we can do is to look at each on its merits.

    “We had a realistic chance of conviction, which was obviously seen in what happened in court.”

  2. Lee Clark Says:

    As a passionate atheist, I just wanted to let you know how refreshing it is to find a Christian (or Christians?) who are equally as disgusted as me on how utterly over-the-top Ms Lees, the police and the CPS have been.

    I honestly feel as though I’m living in the middle ages when I think about this…

  3. webmaster Says:

    @Lee. You are right to be concerned because this the “old” blasphemy laws in through the back door.

  4. Goy Says:

    But these are the very diversity/equality laws that some christians have supported attacking anyone who pointed out the subplot as being racist or a neo-nazi.

  5. douglas clark Says:

    As gambling is pretty well haram too, I expect Mecca Bingo is a bit of a no no as well.

  6. Sophie, Surrey Says:

    This is bad news. The gutless behaviour of British media over those Danish cartoons makes me suspect it wasn’t the cartoons mocking Christ that were the issue. “No more nails” isn’t madly offensive, is it?

    When I read how Chaplain Nicky Lees “was insulted, deeply offended and alarmed” my first reaction was to think what a very sheltered life she must’ve led. Then, as I read on, her reaction became clear:

    “I was so concerned that I rang the duty manager and the airport police. I was alarmed other people could come in and see these items and also feel offended and affronted and I was responsible for the prayer room.”

    I totally sympathise. “Other people could come in and see these items…” Would any of us want to be on the end of a fatwah?

    This conviction causes me concern. The law is being used to protect Muslim sensibilities because the authorities are intimidated. But they do not protect us by allowing one group’s hurt feelings to dominate the debate. If they do, things will only get worse.

    No one has a legal exemption from having their beliefs mocked. No blasphemy laws through the backdoor. From a Christian perspective, no cartoon or indeed any other satire is gonna make God miss a beat. His shoulders are broad. :-)

  7. webmaster Says:

    Well said Sophie.

  8. Goy Says:

    Note the National Secular Society publish two of the anti-christian cartoons but do not publish the anti-islam cartoons on their website article.

  9. Christian Poppycock Says:

    Harry Taylor is my new hero!

    I experience “religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress” every time I come across a bible in my hotel room. Now I’ll have the basis for a law suit against Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, etc…

  10. Susan Says:

    @Goy, well spotted. This is cowardly and yet not unexpected nowadays.

  11. Bill Corr Says:

    Here are the MoToons:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy

    As for being offended, exhibiting a visual representation of the Crucifiction in a public place is offense!

  12. Roger Pearse Says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I thought I’d pop across and see what you said. Unfortunately I think it all rather misses the point.

    Where it goes wrong is in treating “offensive” as a rather wet-sounding whine. You and I, if we said this, would be being wet. But “offensive” in Britain today is a code word, remember, for “this is politically incorrect and may not be said, and if you do say it you will go to prison and lose your job and be forced to apologise publicly on TV etc etc”. It’s not a wet-sounding expression of personal upset — it’s a demand for the power of the state to be used to repress something.

    We need to understand when these code-words are being used, look past them to what is really being done.

    The post also describes this chaplainess as a Christian. Christians do not run multi-faith chaplaincies, you know — to do so violates Christian teaching. The woman is an establishment appointee. Remember that the state in Britain controls a lot of religious appointments.

    Finally I can’t avoid noticing a general presumption that anything may be done to the Christians, and that if they complain they are being wet/swine/bastards/whatever. That, to put it mildly, is pretty nasty. The first principle of morality is “don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like done to you”, and this violates it. Indeed you wouldn’t submit to what you demand others do, for few get as stroppy as an atheist exposed to even the mildest criticism (as, no doubt, this comments thread will witness).

    So… I just think it all misses the point.

    I recommend my thoughts on my blog on this. No-one is obliged to submit to have leaflets designed to give the grossest insult shoved up their watsit — not even atheists. That’s old-fashioned “behaviour designed to cause a breach of the peace”. But “offensive” and the list of protected and privileged groups injures all of our freedoms. The conviction was right, but for the wrong reasons.

  13. Bill Corr Says:

    Religious traditions should be upheld!

    Nicky Lees ought to be thrown to the lions!

  14. Caral Says:

    Roger,

    I do agree with your points. Our religion freedoms are being slowly eroded via the backdoor, whilst issues of Christian rights and freedoms that are being highlighted are seen as trivial and insignificant. Giving rise to the justification by the vociferous atheists/humanists that we are a bunch of wet blankets, (or raving fundie loonies) with ancient prejudices, protected by the privileges of law.

    Whilst they have (imagined) superior values, therefore we deserve to be ridiculed and ignored and our rights and freedoms removed. I think that this particular case, could have damaging and far reaching implications for us on every front.

  15. Lee Clark Says:

    @Goy, Susan

    When the NSS first reported this, the image was of the suicide bombers being told there were no virgins left so they couldn’t enter. Can I ask why you were (are?) so quick to jump into some sort of conspiracy theory? Believe me when I tell you that all atheists treat *all* gods, supernatural and mythological beliefs equally.

    @Roger Pearse

    I think it seems you’ve actually missed the point I’m afraid – by a country mile.

    Who is the ‘You and I’ you talk of? And what on earth are these codes words? You honestly sound as if you’re a hide in the cupboard, conspiracy theorist!

    Are you honestly suggesting that N icky Lees isn’t actually a ‘normal’ Christian because you suspect she may have been appointed by the state as others may have been ( a Church of England state at that?!) Come on! lol

    Finally, (and this one really did make me ‘laugh out loud’). You said: “few get as stroppy as an atheist exposed to even the mildest criticism (as, no doubt, this comments thread will witness).”

    Utterly hilarious!

    Mildest criticism of what? Their hair? The way they’re dressed? Their job? Their politics? Their stance of not believing in gods, supernatural and mythological entities without empirical, proven evidence? Or their stance of treating the bigoted, immoral teachings of the many religious beliefs with the utter disdain it deserves? (I’m actually smiling while I type this, as there *so* many people like you who really just don’t get it! :) )

    To all:
    Apologies to any of the more moderate, forward thinking religious people who may have read this thinking I was insulting them. I wasn’t. As stated in my first post, I popped in here simply to say I was really happy to see Christians taking the same view on this ‘blashpemy’ conviction and the over-reaction of all involved, as me.

  16. Sophie, Surrey Says:

    I think it’s a sign of strength and maturity that Christians don’t feel the need to make a drama out of satirical attacks, however nasty.

    Seems to me that if critics attack genuine problems within the church (the Irish child abuse scandal, fex) we should take it on the chin. When it comes to the strengths of Christianity, what’re they gonna say? Crazy faith prizes humility? Message of peace? Motivated solely by love? Saviour died in agony?

    Some religions are easier to satirise than others. The virgins who await the Islamic martyr in Paradise… Heaven as dreamed up by a horny teenager. And the Steve Bell cartoon commenting on the underpants bomber with the caption “Does my bomb look big in this?”

    Actually, Roger Pearse, although I agree entirely with you about the current implications of the word “offensive” I don’t think anyone’s beliefs should be exempt from ridicule.

    And when you write: “few get as stroppy as an atheist exposed to even the mildest criticism” I wonder which planet you’re on. Muslims worldwide are using fire, riot and murder to enforce their right not be be offended. I have yet to meet an atheist who’ll do that!

  17. Roger Pearse Says:

    Lee: thanks for your comments. But I’m afraid I can’t quite relate to someone who tells me that all the state-appointed clergy are believers — yeah, right — and professes not to know the language of political correctness.

  18. Ian Says:

    Again, thanks for being the christian voice of reason (and I don’t say that often).

    The simple fact for me is that the bible contains pretty odious language, as does the quran, and both religions preach some pretty full on intolerance of atheists…

    but I don’t want these things banned – I don’t want religion taught in the classroom as ‘truth’, I don’t want special rights in law for religious groups or thoughts..

    but I uphold the right of any believer to stand up and say what they like. Personally, I feel that people who express bigoted views are more condemned by their own words than anything I would say to mock them.

    If I find little tracts (and I do) telling me that atheists are evil child abusers who will burn in hell, my reaction is firstly to laugh at the small person who wrote it, and the even smaller person who left it there.

    I certainly would not be reaching for the phone to call the police.

    it’s good to see that there are at least some Christians who feel the same way.

  19. Goy Says:

    @Lee Clark,

    “Believe me when I tell you that all atheists treat *all* gods, supernatural and mythological beliefs equally.”

    Is that not called polytheism?

    I said “on their website article” not their entire website, are the JLA motoon(s) on the site or have they been removed, being an atheist or secularist does not exclude an individual from being a moral coward.

  20. Webmaster Says:

    OK, Harry Taylor has been sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence and a five year Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo) at Liverpool Crown Court.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8640048.stm

  21. Lee Clark Says:

    @Goy
    “Believe me when I tell you that all atheists treat *all* gods, supernatural and mythological beliefs equally.”

    “”Is that not called polytheism?”"

    I hope you’re trying to be witty, and that’s not a serious comment?!

    “I said “on their website article” not their entire website, are the JLA motoon(s) on the site or have they been removed, being an atheist or secularist does not exclude an individual from being a moral coward.”

    So, you’re coming back at me with semantics? And, then suppositions on moral cowardice?

    Sigh.

  22. Lee Clark Says:

    I’m guessing Judge Charles James is relgious.

    I really feel for Harry Taylor. He’s satiracally insulted mythological beings (for the religious, let’s call them ‘beings with no proof of existence’) and received a 6 months’ suspended sentence and a longer ASBO than ‘real’ criminals receive….

    As the Americans would say
    ‘Go figure’

  23. Jim Says:

    As a conscientious atheist I would never dream of leaving offensive cartoons in a prayer room. What is wrong with this guy. This is not “normal” behaviour for anyone. It’s hard to believe that a sane middle aged man would think to do this, unless he is simply an attention seeker.

    Surely this issue is nless about freedom of speech, and more about respect for fellow humans (or lack thereof) and common decency. I think it was right for the court to send out a message that this sort of gratuitous behaviour, calculated to insult, is just plain wrong, and inappropriate in a civilised society.

    As for Mr Taylor declaring that he was trying to convert believers to atheism… Well, either he’s very naive or mentally challenged if he thinks this is a good way to do it. This is one very strange man. He does not speak for me.

  24. Lee Clark Says:

    Well, he speaks for me Jim

    How can insulting something that doesn’t exist be a crime of any sort?

    Think about it.

  25. Jim Says:

    Oh come on Lee. Get real. For a start, logically you cannot prove the non-existence of God any more than anyone can prove that God exists. Secondly, how on Earth does this action help any of his fellow humans, in the absence of God?

    Call me reactionary, but I think it’s appropriate to respect the views of other people, provided these views do not harm other humans, even if I don’t share them. How does this childish action possibly achieve anything worthwhile? Can you identify a single significantly beneficial effect of this pathetic attention seeking act?

  26. Lee Clark Says:

    You’re not an atheist, Jim. You sound more like a religious apologist to me.

    Why don’t you ‘get real’ and actually read up on what Harry actually did, fully? Then I’ll have a conversation with you. Sound fair?

  27. Sophie, Surrey Says:

    @ Jim: For once I disagree with you. Which is unusual, apart of course from the God issue. :-)

    You write: “As a conscientious atheist I would never dream of leaving offensive cartoons in a prayer room. What is wrong with this guy. This is not “normal” behaviour for anyone. It’s hard to believe that a sane middle aged man would think to do this, unless he is simply an attention seeker.

    Surely this issue is less about freedom of speech, and more about respect for fellow humans (or lack thereof) and common decency. I think it was right for the court to send out a message that this sort of gratuitous behaviour, calculated to insult, is just plain wrong, and inappropriate in a civilised society.”

    I don’t think anyone is immune from having their feeling hurt or having their beliefs attacked. Where would that leave satire or indeed most humour? I think this case is about free speech.

    People don’t have to be “normal”. They can be attention-seeking and immature. They can be insensitive. This may be a pain, but it should not be a crime. I still find it hard to believe that in modern Britain such a case was brought, let alone with a guilty verdict. I find it worrying in that it sets a dangerous precedent.

    I bought a rag mag in an benevolent moment last summer. Sexual politics among students don’t seem to have changed as much as you’d think. At least half of the jokes were grossly offensive to women. Nasty. But it didn’t occur to me to urge prosecution. That’s life. And there are plenty of vile jokes aimed at men too. I find them distasteful but I wouldn’t want them banned.

  28. Jim Says:

    Sorry guys Lost this thread. Just found it again…

    @Lee. Can you explain why you think I am not an Atheist?

    @Sophie. Yes. An unusual situation… My point is that it’s not the message to which I object. It’s the particular target and the means of delivery. In what way is this justfied? On reflection I would agree that prosecution was over the top. But I still believe that what this man did was wrong in so many ways.

  29. Lee Clark Says:

    @ Jim
    “For a start, logically you cannot prove the non-existence of God any more than anyone can prove that God exists”

    One of the many statements religious apologists often make when trying to claim that science, empirical evidence, the observable world and probability don’t count – only scripture does. When you use the aforementioned systems, you find that the scales of any god’s existence weigh very, very heavily on the negative side. Furthermore, anyone making a ‘way out’ statement, including the claim of a ‘god’ being real and not imaginary, has the burden of proof on them, not the other way around.

    Also, if, as many religious people claim, their ‘god’ not only speaks to them through their mind, but tells them what to do; this ‘god’ has then jumped into our realms of scientific testing, and can therefore be proved to exist – or not. (As an atheist, you should already know all this, Jim?)

    Back to the actual ‘offense’ itself:
    He printed out and left a brilliantly satirical set of cartoons, that were done by other people, in a multi-faith chapel at an airport. That’s it.

    When I receive the Watchtower (and other similar literature) through my door, have them selling *their* version of faith to me at the doorstep, have all kinds of religious zealots telling me, not only to join their brand of faith, (as that’s the only ‘true’ one!), but am also told I will spend eternity screaming in ‘Hell’ – now *that* is insulting and offensive. I certainly have not, and will not, begrudge them the right to do it though, as it is (as Sophie wonderfully pointed out ‘free speech’).

    Do you see my point yet Jim?

  30. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    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.

  31. Jim Says:

    @Lee. Thanks. As I wrote in my response to Sophie, I have come round to the view that the conviction was unwarranted. I still think it was an inappropriate thing to do, when there are so many more constructive ways to get a message across. Maybe I care too much about my fellow humans, whatever their viewpoint.

    The existence/non-existence thing… I made the comment in response to your statement: “How can insulting something that doesn’t exist be a crime of any sort?”
    Logically I cannot prove God does not exist., and nor can you. Do you really want me to go through the whole argument?

    This statement is not inconsistent with being an Atheist – as someone who rejects belief in God (or Gods).

    By the same logic, a believer cannot prove the existence of God. Where does it get us? Stalemate.

    That really is not the same as saying only scripture counts, or that science etc does not count. And your last paragraph on the topic stretches what I stated well beyond breaking point. In what way could what I said possibly be extrapolated to imply that “God jumped into our realms of scientific testing” etc. This does not follow from my statement at all.
    And yes, I agree with you that the onus is on believers to create a convincing case for belief. And yes, on the evidence of everything I expereience through my senses I conclude that there is an infinitessimally small chnace of there being a supernatural God. But I still can’t prove that.

    Having said all that, I do not feel compelled to offend people who do believe in God. How does that help them – or anyone?

    Hope this makes sense. It’s been a long day!

  32. Lee Clark Says:

    I’m not arguing semantics with you, Jim. I have enough of that with creationists…

    Let’s get back to the real point I think you’re trying to make:

    You seem to be seated heavily in the ‘leave them to it’ camp, and as such, I was going to type out a long answer explaining in depth why I think that is dangerous. I then came along someone who has summed it all up for me, here:
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/17529/

  33. Jim Says:

    Thanks Lee. I guess that’s a bit of a wake-up call.
    I may come across as an appeaser. I think of myself as a thoughtful pragmatist, but I accept that’s a difficult position to argue.

    The thing is, I have huge respect and admiration for many people I know who profess themselves Christians. I know that probably nothing I say will change their minds. Equally they will most likely not change mine. And yet as humans we still have to get on together, and we do. It seems to me that it is the extremists on both who are increasingly dictating the agenda. Perhaps this is indeed the only way to obtain moderate change, but what we are appearing to see at the moment is increasingly extreme views, and statements and acts calculated to give maximum offense. I find this increasingly hard to stomach.
    Mabe I’m just losing the plot.

  34. Webmaster Says:

    @Jim, I personally don’t think you’re losing the plot at all, but then perhaps positive affirmation from me is not necessarily a good thing :)

  35. Me Says:

    I do hope Mr Sanderson will be defending Dale McAlpine who was arrested at the advice of an atheist PCSO for offending those around him when he answered a question about his view on homosexuality.

    That would be nice and consistent of Mr Sanderson wouldn’t it?

  36. Oli Lea Says:

    “said he was only trying to “convert” believers to atheism”???

    What a joke.

    This man did a nasty, schoolboyish prank which was likely to cause unnecessary offense. If he wants to challenge religious people, let him to do it in a legitimate, adult fashion. The sentence may have been heavy, and the chaplain’s reaction quite over the top, but there’s nothing heroic about what this guy did.

  37. Sophie Says:

    @ Oli Lea: I agree it was rude and, as you say “schoolboyish”, but should it have ever become a court case? We’ve been discussing the arrest of a street preacher on another thread, and I’d put leaving papers a lot lower than shouting at people in the street in term of causing offence. Street preaching is directly “in your face.”

    http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/2010/05/02/dale-mcalpine-christian-street-preacher-arrested-charged-publicorder-offence-homosexuality-sinful/comment-page-1/#comment-18096

    BTW, interesting idea raised by your phrase “unnecessary offense” – what would you define as necessary offence?

  38. Oli Lea Says:

    Telling somebody they smell if their odour in public is causing a genuine nuisance, for example. Asking someone to leave a restaurant if they’re being genuinely disruptive and spoiling things for others.

    Maybe “justifiable offense” would have been a better term. Having Richard Dawkins outline why creationists are wrong on the BBC will no doubt cause offense, but it’s justifiable because he’s a peer-reviewed scholar speaking on his subject on a legitimate, public forum which nobody is forced to watch.

  39. Sophie Says:

    @ Oli Lea: Thanks, that makes sense.

  40. douglas clark Says:

    I do not agree with the consensus that seems to be forming here.

    I’d imagine, correct me if I am wrong, that the prayer room would have contained material that supported the, mutually exclusive, God postitions, of various religions.

    So, what is the problem with also providing material that says otherwise?

    Oli Lea, that is a so cheap an example.

    It is pretty clear that religions want a ‘special place’ in the assembly of ideas.

    If you are such sensitive wee folk that you cannot face criticism, can I suggest you all look deep into yourselves. For there is nothing there, apart from exceptionalism dressed in moral outrage. And that is no way to be….

  41. Sophie Says:

    @ Douglas Clark: I can’t see where you get the idea that there’s a consensus. Opinion is split, with slightly more of us supporting Harry Taylor.

    Pro Harry Taylor are Sophie (me), webmaster, Douglas Clark, Lee Clark, Christian Poppycock, Bil Corr, manicstreetpreacher, Ian and Bill Corr = 9

    Anti Harry Taylor are Susan, Goy, Roger Pearse, Me (not me), Caral, Jim and Oli Lea = 7.

  42. Lee Clark Says:

    I wonder if Douglas is a relative of mine?! :) :)

  43. Goy Says:

    Sophie,

    Not sure why you have labeled myself as in the anti Harry Taylor camp there is no way I would ever support the criminal prosecution of HT or anybody else for expressing their opinions – in my opinion the prosecutors are the criminals.

    Some on this site maybe surprised to learn that christian provocative debate is what western democracy and western civilization was built on.

    The right to be offended is an anathema to freedom of speech.

  44. Oli Lea Says:

    Douglas, this is nothing to do with religion wanting a “special place in the assembly of ideas”. This is about people having the right to perform a quiet religious practice in a designated area of an airport without having to be mocked by an idiot leaving childish cartoons.

    Prayer rooms are not the places where ideas are discussed. There are other places for that – theological colleges for example. I’m sure Harry would be welcome to engage in discussion in one of those, but if he went there toting these silly jokes, he’d be laughed out the door.

    I, for my part, am not religious. But I am frequently incensed by the common atheist practice of responding to idealogies which they see as asinine by acting in a genuinely purile manner and then whining “but THEY get away with it!”

    Goy – Harry Taylor was not convicted for expressive his opinions! He was convicted for carrying out a childish prank which was likely to cause offense, and entirely unlikely to lead on to any constructive debate. Sure the chaplain behaved like a bit of a wet blanket, but actually this silly man deserved a slap on the wrist.

    (And Christians don’t always get away with it either…)

  45. douglas clark Says:

    Oli Lea,

    OK, lets try again.

    Clearly you do think that the law acted appropriately in this case. I do not.

    We are moving towards a control culture where what is actually a trivial act, almost a prank, is treated with the full force of the law. The original opinion piece summed up the correct reaction of an adult to fairly childish behaviour – chuck the material in the waste paper bucket.

    You however favour using the full force of the law against dissent. I am not at all convinced that the subjective nature of someones’ ‘offence’, is actually a reasonable basis for any action whatsoever. I would go as far as to say I think it is a step too far.

    I view that as overcriminalisation. Meaning that a law perhaps designed to deal with the most egregious cases is now used for trivia.

  46. Sophie Says:

    @ Goy; I’m sorry if I misrepresented your opinion. It’s not always easy to understand what you mean. However the sense of your last post is entirely clear, and I agree with what you say, with reservations

  47. Oli Lea Says:

    I’m not saying that the law didn’t act in an excessively heavy-handed way. I’m not sure what the going-rate for an offence like this is so I can’t say. I can only assume the severity of the sentence was down to the fact that it took place at a sensitive location (an airport) and on three seperate occassions, making it more than a spontaneous prank. He wanted to provoke…and in a sense he got what he wanted!

    Even so, I totally agree that a far more appropriate action would have been for the chaplain to just put the nonsense in the bin without involving the police. She must have been a proper wet blanket to have been so deeply perturbed as to call security about it.

    What I AM reacting against here is the prevalent and erroneous view that Harry Taylor represents a segment of the atheist contingent being discriminated against for airing their views. I am challenging the revolting casting of this silly man into a martyr, and the rediculous stance of some atheists who seem to think that he was indicted for trying to instigate debate or proselytise his faithlessness.

    He wasn’t; he got into trouble for acting like an inconsiderate and ignorant oik.

  48. Goy Says:

    @Oli Lea,

    “He wasn’t; he got into trouble for acting like an inconsiderate and ignorant oik.”

    Jurors took just 15 minutes to convict Harry Taylor, Judge Charles James said his crimes deserved imprisonment he imposed an Asbo, which bans Taylor from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place and ordered him to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work and pay £250 in costs . Judge James suspended a six-month sentence for two years, but he warned Taylor: “I don’t give people a second chance.”

    Wonder how the law defines “religiously offensive material” maybe Darwin or the koran for dummies.

    Harry Taylor has every right to be an inconsiderate and ignorant oik, the law does not have the right to crimminalise him or his opinions.

  49. douglas clark Says:

    Oli Lea,

    Unless we are all missing something significant about this case, we will simply have to agree to disagree.

  50. douglas clark Says:

    Hmm…

    Last comment on this thread, maybe…

    It is wrong to criminalise what people say or do on the basis of the offense that it might, or might not, give to others. I, for instance, find the BNP a particularily nasty organisation. I have argued with their Legal Advisor, one Lee John Barnes, at length. I would hope that no Christian would have any truck with his point of view.

    Yet, he should have the right to say what he want’s to say.

    He should be free to try to engage with people in any way he can.

    If I were a militant atheist, which I am not, I could find offense in almost any religious publicity that is pushed through my letterbox.

    I don’t.

    I just see it as all a part of this great big wonderful life that we all share. It does not upset me that some say I will burn in hell, for I do not believe in hell, any more than I believe in heaven.

    Frankly, defending religious sensibilities is not something I’d support. We have been here before, and it was all a mess of religiously inspired bigotry – and the historical evidence is there if you want it, chapter and verse.

    Perhaps the Five Mile Act would shut up the tolerant Christians?

    No?

    As it stands right now, subject to additional evidence, etc, etc, this is a ridiculous law and it ought to be amongst the first to be redacted.

  51. douglas clark Says:

    Oli Lea,

    Perhaps we are stretching the hospitality of our good host a tad too far.

    You may want to continue the discussion here:

    http://dougiesplace.blogspot.com/

    I will not censor what you have to say, subject to the usual caveats….

  52. Oli Lea Says:

    “Harry Taylor has every right to be an inconsiderate and ignorant oik, the law does not have the right to crimminalise him or his opinions.”

    Taylor has the right to BE anything.

    He does not have the right to BEHAVE that way though, any more than a delinquent teen has the right to shout offensive abuse at people in a shopping precinct. They would recieve an ASBO for this too.

    Once again, Taylor’s opinions have not been criminalised, only his anti-social behaviour.

  53. Sophie Says:

    @ Oli Lea: Yesterday Douglas Clark addressed you thus “Unless we are all missing something significant about this case, we will simply have to agree to disagree.”

    Why keep repeating yourself?

  54. douglas clark Says:

    Oli Lea,

    Not really. It seems very strange to me that you are so uncomfortable in your opinion that you need the law to back it up.

    It is you that sees his behaviour as anti social. Is it equally valid for me to see religious leaflets through my lettebox as anti social? At what point do we stop legislating for everything?

  55. Oli Lea Says:

    “It is you that sees his behaviour as anti social. Is it equally valid for me to see religious leaflets through my lettebox as anti social?”

    I don’t think so…unless those leaflets have offensive cartoons on like “Stop, drop and roll won’t work in hell” or “Only idiots believe in evolution”. Most leaflets I’ve ever had through my door (admittedly mostly by JWs) have been very cordial, affirmative, and best of all, more easilly recyclable than most pizza delivery menus. They could most justly be called a genuine attempt at trying to convert people. They are honest outlines of a religious viewpoint; they do not mock. They are entirely unlike Harry Taylor’s cartoons.

    Remember, I am not religious. I am an agnostic. This isn’t about getting the law to smack down or uphold anyone’s opinions or beliefs. This is not about religion vs non-religion AT ALL. This is quite simply about one man deliberately publically mocking people’s beliefs/culture/way of life (any or all of the above religion can be to a person) in an area specially designated for them to practice it, and then showing what an idiot he is by trying to pass it off as proselytisation, then elsewhere as a protest against the presence of a prayer room in an airport named after John Lennon.

    And what some of you are doing is confusing the right our culture gives for people to practice their religion freely (ie, without mockery by idiots like Taylor) with this fictional notion that all religions want the right not to be criticised or questioned.

    For the last time, if Taylor was sincerely criticising or questioning religion in an appropriate manner (eg, by putting some Dawkensian literature through my door), he would NOT be in any trouble. But instead he deliberately set out to offend people in a public place, that IS anti-social and it DOES deserve retribution. (And if he was genuinely surprised that his cartoons offended people, then he’s a bigger idiot still.)

    As Sophie said, I really am just repeatedly clarifying myself ad nauseum, so perhaps I’ll leave it at that.

  56. Goy Says:

    @Oli Lea,

    You miss the point, when you wake up one day in the UK and bemoan that democracy has been outlawed, then it may dawn on you that the crimminalisation of democracy was what you advocated in the prosecution of “anti social behaviour”.

  57. Lee Clark Says:

    @Oli Lea

    The more I read your comments, the more I think you’re missing the point.

    Have you seen the cartoons? They’re genuinely funny. From a non-believers’ and agnostics’ [you obviously not included!] point of view, they’re no worse than the satirical TV show ‘Spitting Image’ – (actually Spitting Image was probably far worse!) From most moderate believers’ point of view, they’re funny too.

    Let’s try an analogy. Let’s say there was a ‘My stepmother is an alien’ conference, (for people who really believe that to be true). If you, Harry Taylor or I, left mocking leaflets at the conference, in an attempt to help them see the silliness of their ways by mocking their beliefs, would any of us deserve any kind of court sentence? No. Because there is no such offense as ‘mocking someone’s beliefs’.

    This analogy throws up some interesting points:
    1) Harry Taylor was genuinely trying to help these people see the ‘sceptical light’.
    2) Anyone who holds views on any ‘way out’ statements (including all supernatural and religious beliefs), must surely realise that they will be questioned, mocked and even (biblically speaking) tested.
    3) Contrary to what you keep repeating; religious people *are* treated differently through the law than other ‘believers’, because he was sentenced to blasphemy by the back door. I hope my analogy highlights this.

    It also makes your statement:
    “..with this fictional notion that all religions want the right not to be criticised or questioned” sound ridiculous. Because, not only do the believers themselves dislike having their faith questioned, but this whole case proves that the even the laws of this land won’t let them be criticised either.

  58. Oli Lea Says:

    “From most moderate believers’ point of view, they’re funny too.”

    So Taylor was trying to give them something to laugh about? ‘Oh look at these funny cartoons, I suddenly realise the beliefs I live my life by are untrue.” Give me a break. Whether I find them funny or not is immaterial. I wouldn’t deliberately leave them in a place where I knew people would be offended by them.

    “in an attempt to help them see the silliness of their ways by mocking their beliefs”

    Let’s get one thing straight, MOCKERY is NEVER an acceptable way of getting someone to see that their beliefs are wrong.

    “1) Harry Taylor was genuinely trying to help these people see the ’sceptical light’.”

    But his methods were offensive and, quite frankly, childish. An adult shouldn’t behave the way he did. So yes, he is guilty of antisocial behaviour.

    “2) Anyone who holds views on any ‘way out’ statements (including all supernatural and religious beliefs), must surely realise that they will be questioned, mocked and even (biblically speaking) tested.”

    Absolutely. They DO expect it…but they expect to encounter it in the public arena, such as in the media. They do not, and should not have to, expect to encounter it in an area designated for them to PRACTICE their religion.

    “3) Contrary to what you keep repeating; religious people *are* treated differently through the law than other ‘believers’, because he was sentenced to blasphemy by the back door. I hope my analogy highlights this.”

    No it does not. Harry Taylor would have been treated them same if he was a Christian leaving anti-Muslim cartoons, or vice versa. Again, this isn’t about religion vs non-religion. It is YOU guys who are missing the point.

    “but this whole case proves that the even the laws of this land won’t let them be criticised either.”

    You obviously never saw Dawkin’s documentary “The Root of All Evil”. Don’t be so rediculous. Of course religion is allowed to be criticised, but bad eggs like Harry Taylor are not allowed to behave in a deliberatelt offensive way.

  59. Oli Lea Says:

    @Goy

    Democracy is not at risk here. Freedom of speech is not at risk here. The right of turds like Taylor to behave in a purile and offensive manner is what’s on the line.

  60. Oli Lea Says:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7624578/Atheist-given-Asbo-for-leaflets-mocking-Jesus.html

    I suggest you read this article and look at Taylor’s other offenses and tell me you don’t think he’s not an unrepentant sh*t-stirrer. Makes the severity of the sentence a lot easier to understand.

  61. Caral Says:

    They do not, and should not have to, expect to encounter it in an area designated for them to PRACTICE their religion.

    Come on Oli, they were left in a prayer room in an airport, not on the high Altar.

  62. Oli Lea Says:

    @Caral

    My point was not that they were left in a “sacred” place, but in a place where people should expect to be able to pray without being victimised by Harry Taylor’s immature campaign. (He left leaflets there on three occassion.)

  63. Caral Says:

    expect to be able to pray without being victimised by Harry Taylor’s

    Victimised – oh purlease! He left leaflets, he didn’t hold anyone down, or place a gun to their head and force them to read!

    Nicky Lees, is a little sensitive poppet, and if she is so offended by cartoons, then she is certainly in the wrong vocation!!!

  64. Sophie Says:

    Oli Lea: You need to get a life. I can’t tell what sex you are from your nom de plume, but I’m guessing you’re a bloke and that you don’t go into shopping centres with small children.

    Because if you were a woman you’d know that the world is full of crude and offensive stuff. Pretty much every newsagent I walk into, for a start. A goodly percentage of the t-shirts I see on certain types of people are obscene, and I’ve often had to explain nasty slogans to kids who can read just enough to be troubled.

    I wrote on this thread on 25th April: “I bought a rag mag in an benevolent moment last summer. Sexual politics among students don’t seem to have changed as much as you’d think. At least half of the jokes were grossly offensive to women. Nasty. But it didn’t occur to me to urge prosecution. That’s life. And there are plenty of vile jokes aimed at men too. I find them distasteful but I wouldn’t want them banned.”

    You seem far too fragile a flower for this cruel world.

  65. Oli Lea Says:

    Sophie, I never once said I was personally offended by these cartoons. I am aware that the world is full of stuff which is offensive, and indeed I am offended by some of the things I see on TV or in the papers. But I don’t complain about it, I get on with life just like you. (I am a father of two young children, and yes I do take them to shopping centres.) But if someone started leaving it on my work desk or shoving it through my door, THEN I’d complain.

    For the very last time, I’m not trying to rid the world of anything that could be construed as offensive. Offensive material is not my concern. What I am appealing against is the idea that Harry Taylor is a victim of “blasphemy by the back door”, and how he’s being set up as a victim and a martyr. He deliberately set out to offend a specific set of people in a specific place. If he’d worn a t-shirt with an atheist slogan, no problem. If he’d run an editorial in the paper, no problem. (I believe some of the cartoons were taken from newspapers, were they not?)

    But he didn’t. He decided to harass some people with offensive literature. He behaved in an antisocial manner and deserved to be punished. I’m glad that the judge and jury had the common sense to see so.

    This guy is unemployed and gets his kicks from leaving crude cartoons in placed of worship, and you’re telling ME to get a life? Think it through before you judge me.

  66. Sophie Says:

    @ Oli Lea: Like I said, get a life. I’m not safe from offensive material anywhere. None of us is. You’ve just agreed that this is so. So what makes this case different? You’ve not come up with a convincing argument.

    You’re not winning the battle for hearts and minds here. Sometimes the lone individual is the one sticking out for truth and justice. Other times he’s just out of step.

  67. Oli Lea Says:

    My sole argument is this: a person deliberately leaves potentially offensive material in a place and manner which will maximise the offense caused. Antisocial behavious? Yes.

  68. Oli Lea Says:

    On reflection, maybe I did get a little ‘caught up’ in all this. I’m not at all pro-censorship (I laughed when some Christians burned their TV licences over the Jerry Springer musical broadcast), and for most things I’m “live and let live”. I just detest the toadying and immaturity that goes on within new-atheist Dawkins/Hitchens-type circles, and I saw red when I perceived that an example of this was being set up as a martyr. It makes me want to side with the religious, even though I’m not one.

  69. Sophie Says:

    @ Oli Lea: S’ok. We all get steamed up occasionally. :-)

  70. douglas clark Says:

    Oli Lea,

    Well said.

  71. Lee Clark Says:

    Oli
    “I just detest the toadying and immaturity that goes on within new-atheist Dawkins/Hitchens-type circles”

    Could you explain what you mean by this and give examples please?

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