Last Monday I went to Cardiff for the first anniversary of Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub.
This was for a joint talk with John Dixon about "Stupid Scientology".
The background to this was a strange day in July 2010.
That morning someone anonymous had sent me a link to a news article about a Cardiff Councillor facing a complaint from a Scientologist for was a tweet about Scientology.
The tweet had simply said:
"- didn't know there was a Scientology 'church' on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off."
The tweet had been sent in May the year before; but it was not until December that a Scientologist complained about it to the Welsh public services ombudsman, who (in a woeful decision) held that there was a case to answer.
This is what was reported last July; it made page seven of the local paper.
Feeling mischievous, I retweeted the original tweet with the hashtag #StupidScientology.
It then went viral.
By the end of the day, the story had gone from being tucked inside the local paper to an item on Newsnight...
Yes, it was nice to have a hashtag which one had devised read out by Kirsty Wark.
In the end, the Council sensibly rejected the complaint.
It now seems a long time ago, bit it was fun to re-live that curious day through with John upstairs in a pub in Cardiff.
At the time people were genuinely scared of the Scientologists and their litigious and bullying way: the sort of aggressive strategy which Scientologists and others adopted in the old days of the media approach of "command and control".
Nonetheless, I do not regard Scientology as inherently better or worse than any other religion.
For me belief systems based on superstition and the paranormal (or, in this case, Science Fiction) are much of a muchness.
What does matter to me is the wrongful use of litigation to intimidate or deter.
The Church of Scientology has as much right as anyone else to assert and protect their ultimate legal rights.
But it is misconceived and illiberal for litigation (or the threat of litigation) to be used by itself as weapon.
L Ron Hubbard has been quoted as saying:
"The purpose of the [law] suit is to harass and discourage rather than win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly."
This abuse of the litigation process (and the abuse of regulatory complaints, such as with John Dixon) should be checked; and one merit of social media is that such abuses can be more readily checked.
A cack-handed complaint about a tweet calling Scientology stupid can rebound, and it can provide the Church of Scientology with far worse and critical publicity than it otherwise would have had.
That was the stupidity of the Scientologist who made the complaint.
And that was the meaning of the meme last July of "Stupid Scientology".
No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.