Yes, it’s a cult. Who wants to take me to court?
A teenager is facing prosecution for using the word “cult” to describe the Church of Scientology.
The unnamed youth was served the summons by City of London police when he took part in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the controversial religion.
Officers confiscated a placard with the word “cult” on it from the youth, who is under 18, and a case file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service.
A date has not yet been set for him to appear in court.
The decision to issue the summons has angered human rights activists and support groups for the victims of cults.
The incident happened during a protest against the Church of Scientology on May 10. Demonstrators from the anti-Scientology group, Anonymous, who were outside the church’s Â£23m headquarters near St Paul’s cathedral, were banned by police from describing Scientology as a cult by police because it was “abusive and insulting”.
Writing on an anti-Scientology website, the teenager facing court said: “I brought a sign to the May 10th protest that said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’
“‘Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector.”
A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and “strongly advised” him to remove the sign. The section prohibits signs which have representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting.
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”.
After the exchange, a policewoman handed him a court summons and removed his sign.
On the website he asks for advice on how to fight the charge: “What’s the likelihood I’ll need a lawyer? If I do have to get one, it’ll have to come out of my pocket money.”
Writing on the same website, another anonymous demonstrator said: “We also protested outside another Scientology building in Tottenham Court Road which is policed by a separate force, the Metropolitan police, who have never tried to stop us using the word cult.
“We’re completely peaceful protesters expressing a perfectly valid opinion. This whole thing stinks.”