The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society are speaking out on behalf of an 89-year-old atheist who claims he was threatened with arrest for posting in the window of his home a sign suggesting religion is a fairy tale. The organizations see the case as an example of why Britain's Public Order Act needs to be revised.
In a case that has many Britons in shock, John Richards is claiming that when police became aware of the sign hanging in a window of his home in Lincolnshire County in East England, they told him he could be arrested if it drew any complaints. The sign Richards placed for passersby to see reads: "Religions are fairy stories for adults."
"I am an atheist and I feel people are being misled by religion. I wanted to show people that if they thought they were alone there was at least one other person who thought that," Richards told local publication the Boston Standard last week.
"The police said I could be arrested if somebody complained and said they were insulted, but the sign was up two years ago and nobody responded or smashed the window," the retiree said.
At issue is the country's Public Order Act of 1986. Richards was reportedly told that he could be in violation of Section 5 of the Act, which prohibits "harassment, alarm or distress" of other persons, due to the sign.
The part particular to Richards says that a person is guilty of an offense and could be arrested without a warrant if he "displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person" who would find the display distressing.
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