In a dishearteningly short time, a couple of stories appear to which my new catchphrase could be applied.
A man put a sign up in his home, visible from outside, reading “Religions are fairy stories for adults“.
This, obviously, is something some people will disagree with. I’ve often seen things people have put on display on their own property, expressing their own views, with which I’ve disagreed: sentiments such as “JESUS SAVES” typify the sort of thing I mean. They’re wrong, but that’s fine. It’s no bother to me, and no business of mine.
Police have told this man that he’ll have to take his sign down if anyone complains that they’re offended by it, or else he’ll be arrested.
Now, that’s importantly different from having the authorities simply swoop in and order him to remove the sign straight away or face a prison sentence. Nobody’s complained about it yet. But they could. Anyone walking past his house has the legal ability to lodge a complaint, and make it illegal for that sign to remain up in the man’s own home. That’s still pretty scary and surreal.
The Public Order Act is the law in question, which is supposed to protect us all from “distress” caused by other people’s “threatening, abusive or insulting” actions. It’s hard to imagine how complaining to the police, and having them threaten a pensioner with forced imprisonment, is a more effective or humane way of saving anyone from distress than by simply choosing not to look at that particular square foot of some other guy’s house.
Ken at Popehat asks:
What is the character of a person who sees a sign like that in a pensioner’s window, and runs to the police to complain?
He may find at least a partial answer to that question in the form of Stephen Green of Christian Voice, who both complains about members of his own religion being charged with crimes under this law and simultaneously mocks the idea that an atheist being so censored has any legitimate complaint. He throws in a dozen or so misunderstandings of evolution toward the end, too, for no reason except to hurl misguided abuse.
Putting up a piece of paper, with some writing expressing their disagreement with others’ opinions, in the window of their own house?
Or, for that matter, cheering at their daughter’s graduation ceremony at a point of the process during which they’ve been asked to keep quiet?
Strange reasons to think you’re entitled to lock someone in a cage.