Man, this Keith Henson character is a fearsome dude. He was convicted of a crime, fled the state, has been on the lam for 6 years, and was finally caught and thrown in jail, with bail initially set at half a million dollars. What heinous act won him such a nefarious reputation?
He posted a joke on usenet. A joke that made fun of a religion.
Henson was convicted in 2001 under a California law (Sec. 422.6) that criminalizes any threat to interfere with someone else’s “free exercise” of religion. One Usenet post that was introduced at his trial included jokes about sending a “Tom Cruise” missile against a Scientology compound (the actor is a prominent Scientologist). Picketing Scientology buildings and other “odd behavior” were also part of the charges, Deputy District Attorney Robert Schwarz said at the time.
We’re in a sad state when making a joke about a religion is regarded as interference with free exercise of that religion. Especially when the religion itself is a colossal joke.
Although one could also argue that it is no joke that Scientology is populated with such scumbag losers, and has successfully convinced the apparatus of the state to do their dirty work for them.