thespike at satx.rr.com
Tue Jul 20 19:03:04 UTC 2010
Councillor faces inquiry over tweet calling Church of Scientology 'stupid'
A councillor is facing a disciplinary hearing after calling the Church
of Scientology "stupid" on Twitter, it emerged today.
The Welsh public standards watchdog investigated Cardiff councillor John
Dixon's short message and decided it was "likely" to have breached the
code of conduct for local authority members.
News of the ombudsman's decision prompted a flood of messages of support
on Twitter for Dixon, the council's executive member for health, social
care and wellbeing.
Tweets included an offer to find a lawyer to fight his case pro bono and
many others defending his right to free speech.
The case centres on a message posted by the Liberal Democrat councillor
during a visit to London.
It said: "I didn't know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham
Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off."
The message was posted on an account called CllrJohnDixon. He has since
set up a second account, JohnLDixon, for his "more personal musings", in
which he describes himself as a "microbiologist and web developer, into
science, rugby and web geekery".
By 3pm today, Dixon's number of followers on Twitter had trebled.
One supporter said: "Instead of a disciplinary hearing, they should
canvas all the electorate to see if they agree with you. I think they
Another wrote: "We're all behind you mate, if any disciplinary action
goes ahead it will be because the stupid rubbed off on someone."
Dixon later tweeted: "Just seen all the retweets about my ombudsman's
judgement. Um... Wow... Thanks."
A spokeswoman for the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales confirmed
there had been an investigation into Dixon.
The investigation had found there was likely to have been a breach of
the code of conduct local authority members must follow.
The ombudsman has referred the case to Cardiff council's standards and
ethics committee, which will consider it in the autumn. It will have to
decide if there has been a breach and, if it finds there has been,
consider any sanctions.
A spokesman for the Church of Scientology said: "The complaint was made
by an individual Scientologist who was personally offended by the comments."
The spokesman suggested people go to their website to find out about the
church and its founder, L Ron Hubbard.
Dixon argued that the remarks were made in a personal capacity rather
than as a councillor, and said his Twitter name was CllrJohnDixon only
because JohnDixon had been taken.
He told the Guardian he was in London in June last year to buy a wedding
ring for his wife-to-be – which he also tweeted about. Other postings
made at the time included remarks about visiting a relative in Richmond
and going to a musical.
Dixon said he thought the remark about the Church of Scientology was
"whimsical" and had thought nothing more about it until he began to
suspect that members of the church were following him on Twitter.
He posted another message: "Just realised the Scientologists are
following me. Quick everyone, pretend you're out."
But he said that, in December, the ombudsman received a complaint about
the remarks. Councillors are obliged to carry out their duties with due
regard to the principle that there should be equal opportunity to all,
regardless of their religion.
Dixon said that even if he had been speaking in an official capacity –
which he maintains he was not – he was surprised at the complaint going
"As a Liberal Democrat, I'm used to having things said about me. You
take it on the chin," he said.
He said he did not have very strong opinions on Scientologists before
the saga. "Having done some research on them, I take a harder line now,"
More information about the extropy-chat