For those who don’t follow the hive-mind on Twitter, there has been a run in with Scientology trying to stifle free speech.
Or, as I think, not.
Here are the brief facts of the case.
- A local councillor (John Dixon) has a Twitter account “CllrJohnDixon”
- Last year, he tweeted: “I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”
- Someone in Scientology didn’t like this and raised an official complaint.
- The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales investigated and found there was likely to have been a breach of the code of conduct local authority members must follow.
- The ombudsman referred the case to Cardiff council’s standards and ethics committee. They will take a look at this case later in the year.
So, is this an evil cult trying to repress free speech? I don’t think so.
Imagine if John had tweeted “Going past a Synagogue – better watch my wallet.” or “Near a Church – hope they don’t molest me” or… well, pick a religion of your choice and a slur.
People are free to hold these opinions. I don’t believe in thought crime. If an elected official chooses not to socialise in her free time with Mormons, Hindus or Agnostics, that’s their choice.
What is totally unacceptable is for an elected official to publicly say, in an official capacity “this group of people are totally unworthy of my respect.”
When I go and see my local councillors, I don’t want to think that I’m being badly treated because I’m an Apathist. As stupid as Scientologists are, I’m sure once in a while they need to go to their council for planning permission or complain about noisy neighbours, etc. How can they go to John Dixon knowing that he thinks their church is “stupid”?
The democracy we practice in the UK means that all people are equal in the eyes of officialdom. Whatever views an elected official may hold, constituents must have faith that they will receive a fair hearing. The (hypothetical) Scientologists in John Dixon’s ward now know that their representative publicly denigrates their faith through his official publications.
John Dixon needs to make it quite clear that his personal opinions will not affect how he treats people when he is acting as their democratically elected official. He also needs to understand that – for some people – separating their professional and personal Twitter accounts is a prudent measure.
For the record, I think Scientology is a devious, manipulative, lying, shallow front for a group of disreputable people who are only interested in money, power and control. It’s no different to any other religion.