Paul Sims on the Harry Taylor question
I don’t disagree with Paul Sims on all points, but I do on some.
If Taylor had been convicted for publishing the images in a magazine, or on a website, where members of the public have the choice not to buy or visit, I would strongly oppose his conviction. But this isn’t what Taylor did – he placed the images in a room provided for the religious to quietly practise their faith, away from public space.
But why is a room provided in an airport for the religious to quietly practise their faith? Rooms aren’t provided for the religious to quietly practise their faith in supermarkets and bookshops and bus terminals and parks, so why in airports? And if such rooms are provided in airports, do they thereby become the equivalents of churches and mosques? If they are, then, again, what are they doing in airports? Why is part of a public space provided for the religious to quietly practise their faith at all? Why is part of a public space turned into a mini-mosque or church?
Either the “prayer room” isn’t really a quasi-church or mosque, in which case Harry Taylor was just expressing his views in public, or it is, in which case Harry Taylor was making what seems to me to be a valid objection to religious encroachment on public space.
But given the confrontational nature of the material, isn’t it entirely plausible that his aim was in fact to “harass, alarm or distress” religious believers by making them feel uncomfortable using a room provided precisely to allow them to feel comfortable practising their faith in a busy public building?
But there again – why are rooms being provided to allow people to feel comfortable practising their faith in a busy public building? Why is this seen as desirable or necessary? Why can’t people just “practice their faith” internally until they get home or to a mosque or church?
And it follows that the Chaplain was right to inform the police once she discovered that someone who clearly had no business in the prayer room was leaving this material in public view with a deliberateness that certainly warranted investigation.
But there again, again – how can you have a room in a public facility where someone “has no business”? – apart from obvious exceptions like rest rooms and nursing rooms. And what are airports doing having “chaplains”? And if religious believers get to have chaplains, can we have the atheist or secular equivalent to speak for us and protect our delicate feelings and keep people out of our room?
Having said all that – I don’t entirely disagree that what Taylor did was obnoxious. On the other hand, I don’t think being obnoxious should be illegal, much less subject to the ferocious punishment he got.