You may already be familiar with 17-year-old Rhys Morgan. In 2010 he received the James Randi Award for Grassroots Skepticism for outing the scam drug “Miracle Mineral Supplement.” More recently, he received numerous legal threats from the odious Burzynski clinic for shedding light on their unscientific and unethical practices.
Did I mention this badass is 17? If I were a university, I’d be trying to snatch him up. Not every teenager is so involved with skepticism and activism, and he has a bright future ahead of him.
But apparently his school doesn’t think so. You see, not all of Rhys’s activism is about exposing medical scams. Why, he had the audacity to put up this horrible image as his Facebook profile photo:
He chose that photo to stand in solidarity with the University College London’s Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society. The group was caught in a firestorm after someone complained about the image being used to promote their pub social and school officials ordered them to take it down.
But now Rhys is stuck in a firestorm of his own. Because that image from the comic Jesus and Mo was his Facebook photo for a week, he has been harassed and threatened at school by his classmates. He was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion.
I’m no expert on laws related to freedom of speech in the UK, so I can’t predict what will happen to Rhys. But what I can say is that this sort of treatment is wrong. Religious people should not be allowed to force their beliefs onto others, and that’s exactly what’s happening in this situation. Muslims can abstain from posting photos of Mohammed all they want, but they can’t force non-Muslims to do the same. Just like they can abstain from eating pork without totally banning pork from the school cafeteria. Disagreeing with religious ideas is not equivalent to a “hate crime,” and equating the two is a dangerous mindset indeed.
UPDATE: Maryam Namazie asked Rhys for an update, and got the following reply:
“Unfortunately, given the extreme situation, I’ve removed the image in question. They thanked me for being “co-operative”, even though the reason I did it was purely selfish – not being expelled. They didn’t actually state whether I was going to be, but based on their wording, it’s obvious that is what they were threatening.”
The religious bullies win again, though I totally sympathize with Rhys’s personal decision.