Criminal Conviction in England for Leaving Anti-Religious Leaflets in Airport Prayer Room

Harry Taylor was convicted of “causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress,” and sentenced to six months in jail (suspended for two years), 100 hours of community service, and 250 pounds in costs; he was also barred from “carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.” A few details on the leaflets, from Asian News International/, which has the most comprehensive coverage I’ve found (though there’s also a similar story in the Independent (UK) and other British papers):

Among the posters, one image showed a smiling crucified Christ next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue.

In another, a cartoon depicted two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.”

Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise were told in another: “Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.” …

He had adapted newspaper and magazine cartoons and added captions of his own — one made a crude joke on a picture of a woman kneeling in front of a priest.

But some of his cartoons went way beyond exercising freedom of expression, prosecutor Neville Biddle said.

One image showed a pig excreting sausages with insults to Islam, and others linked Muslims to attacks on airports….

An appalling restriction on freedom of speech; I realize English free speech rules aren’t the same as ours, but cases such as this remind me why I like our free speech rules much better. I should note also that this certainly wasn’t a content-neutral prohibition on leafleting in particular places (e.g., a ban on leaving any unsolicited material in prayer rooms) — the conviction was based on the content and viewpoint of the speech, and the “anti-social behaviour order” applied to carrying “religiously offensive material” in any “public place.”

Thanks to Josh Mize for the pointer. If anyone has the text of the leaflets, I’d love to see it and link to it, so people can better grasp exactly what the case was about.

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