|Bernadette Smyth. "I'm no witch, I'm a Christian".|
Catholics in Northern Ireland expressed shock and disappointment that a judge at Belfast's Magistrates Court had imposed a community service and issued a restraining order on Catholic anti-abortionist campaigner, Bernadette Smyth, preventing her from harassing Dawn Purvis of a Marie Stopes clinic and going within 20 yards of the clinic.
She was also sentenced to 100 hours community service and given a five-year restraining order banning her from pestering people going to and from the clinic and was ordered to pay her victim £2000 in compensation. She had earlier been warned that she could face a custodial sentence because of her abusive behaviour and behaviour in court. She had denied the charges.
Bernadette Smyth had been in the habit of stopping people entering the clinic and demanding they tell her their reason for going there. Catholics have been waging a campaign of harassment and abuse against staff and patients of the clinic since it opened two years ago despite abortion in special circumstances being legal in Northern Ireland. The court heard that on one occasion, when Dawn Purvis had asked her to stop harassing her, she had shouted, "You ain't seen harassment yet, darling."
During the case, Ms Smyth had accused a police constable who had investigated the case of acting unprofessionally and had claimed a senior police officer had expressed this view. The judge described this as "completely and utterly unjustified" and said Ms Smyth "was slandering during the course of this case deliberately and maliciously."
Quite obviously, like many Christians, Ms Smyth felt entitled to ignore the commandment against bearing false witness, illustrating how many Christians feels free to pick and choose which of their god's laws to obey, which to ignore and which to use to try to impose their control over others. Nor do they feel constrained from behaving hypocritically.
However, Ms Smyth's solicitor boasted that, because there would be an appeal, the restraining order has "no effect in the meantime", indicating that the campaign of abuse and harassment would continue in spite of the law forbidding abuse and harassment of people going about their lawful activities. He added that the order was "a disappointment to Christians worldwide."
In common with Christians elsewhere, many Northern Ireland Catholics feel entitled to disobey laws they disagree with or which prevent them imposing their bigotry and superstitious beliefs on others, whether in the field of human rights, women's reproductive rights, what children are taught in schools, marriage laws or even what consenting adults may do in private. We also see in this case an example of how people use religion to impose their control over others but feel entitled to pick and chose which of their religion's supposedly objective and god-given laws to obey themselves.
It is perfectly clear that if they ever regain the power and authority they once had over Western society in particular, they would feel perfectly entitled to impose their Bronze Age bigotry and primitive tribal morality on the rest of us and to roll back the progress made in recent centuries in the fields of human rights in response to humanist enlightenment, moral philosophy and scientific progress. It's good to see the courts upholding the principle that even Christians have to abide by the laws of the land, despite their inflated sense of entitlement to privileges.
Anti-abortion protester Bernadette Smyth guilty of harassing Dawn Purvis
Bernadette Smyth tells court: 'I'm no witch, I'm a Christian'
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