manicstreetpreacher reports on the fate of a “militant atheist” who took freedom of speech too far.
I commented a few weeks ago that a self-proclaimed “militant atheist”, 59 year old Harry Taylor from Salford, Manchester, had been convicted of causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress for leaving provocative and “offensive” religious images on three separate occasions at the multi-faith room at Liverpool John Lennon airport.
I received an email from one of the committee of Liverpool Humanist Group that he was being sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 23 April 2010 and whether any of us would like to go along and show our support. Since I was home from my job at the other end of the country and doing nothing of note that day, I decided to attend my very first protest / show of support for a complete stranger.
The Daily Telegraph reports on Mr Taylor’s sentencing:
Judge James told him: “Not only have you shown no remorse for what you did but even now you continue to maintain that you have done nothing wrong and say that whenever you feel like it you intend to do the same thing again in the future.”
Taylor’s Anti-Social Behaviour Order bans him from carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.
He was sentenced to six months in jail suspended for two years, ordered to perform 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £250 costs.
Aside from the bare facts of the sentencing, I would like to add that Mr Taylor seemed like a perfectly rational, intelligent and calm man who wanted to put his point across and was certainly not the “crackpot” that several bloggers, including myself to an extent, had presumed him to be. He was clearly still deeply affected by his horrendous childhood experiences of a strict Catholic upbringing by the Christian Brotherhood and was so distressed by the prospect of receiving a custodial sentence that he had to leave the courtroom midway through the hearing after nearly fainting.
Following the hearing, Liverpool Humanist Group’s Peter McKenna told a reporter from Radio City that the Asbo sentence was absurd since it prevented Mr Taylor from purchasing copies of say, New Humanist or Private Eye in a newsagent since there was a risk that they would contain images of the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed or other “offensive” religious images similar to those he left in the prayer room!
While I am pleased that Mr Taylor did not receive an immediate custodial sentence, I am still appalled that the establishment has shown such favouritism in protecting religious views from criticism.