Their function on the day amounted to the protection of freedom of expression and inquiry from Koranic thugs determined to slaughter those who refuse to submit to their religious opinion, as was evident from their post-murder boasting of having avenged the Prophet Mohammed.
Twenty four hours after the attack a number of UK police forces held a two minute silence in memory of the dead officers. This week in Belfast PSNI colleagues of Ahmed Merabet and Franck Brinsolaro shamefully took a wholly different approach to silence. In conjunction with the British Public Prosecution Service in the North, the PSNI commemorated the dead French officers who had defended the right to speak out against theocratic demands to be silent, by seeking to convict and criminalise criticism of Islamic opinion by a 78 year old Christian evangelical pastor, James McConnell.
If there is any reason for disagreeing with TUV leader Jim Allister's piercing observation, it escapes me. Citing that he is a right wing unionist or that he is not helpful to the peace process simply will not cut the mustard.
This was an unnecessary and vindictive prosecution which the PPS should never have brought ... This was an audacious attempt by the PPS to severely curb the foundational right of freedom of expression by bringing censure to the pulpit.
Fortunately, the courts on this occasion assumed a more progressive view on free speech than the police and prosecutors. Judge Liam McNally said:
The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances.
It is obviously with a brass neck that DUP MP Sammy Wilson both supports and appeared as a character witness for Pastor McConnell, incredulously claiming "we live in a free society and in a free society people should be free to express the beliefs that they hold."
Wilson was the Northern British micro minister who “took a unilateral decision to halt the extension of libel reform to Northern Ireland without consulting other parties on the issue” earning for himself the opprobrium "outrageous" from Index on Censorship.
Wilson's role as Minister for Muzzling is no reason for exasperated indifference or resignation in face of the PPS attempt to smuggle into law a new Blasphemy charge.
What the worshipper of the great sea monster thinks of the Great Unicorn devotee might have little interest for those of us of an atheistic bent. Their theological disputes have little purchase on logic or reason. In what sense Edwin Poots crackpot creationist views are at odds with the nonsense of anti-evolution whack job, Harun Yahya, matter not.
But the notion that either should be censored by police and prosecutor is one that comes accompanied by a logic ultimately more dangerous than the illogic of religion.