A councillor is facing a disciplinary hearing after calling the Church of Scientology “stupid” in a post on the Twitter website.
Wales’ public standards watchdog said John Dixon is likely to have breached the code of conduct for local authority members with his short message last year.
The Church of Scientology, whose followers include entertainers Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirsty Allie, made an official complaint after spotting the posting last year.
The church, created by American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, has a reputation for being fiercely litigious and has been accused in the US courts of trying to use the legal system to destroy critics.
Mr Dixon, who is Cardiff council’s executive member for health and social services, as well as being a web developer and microbiologist, is contesting the complaint saying he was writing in a personal capacity.
He posted the message on his Twitter account, then called CllrJohnDixon, when he was in London last year buying his wife-to-be a wedding ring.
It said: “I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”
In a follow-up comment after the Scientologists registered to receive all his Twitter posts, he posted: “Just realised the Scientologists are following me. Quick everyone, pretend you’re out.”
Mr Dixon did not want to comment yesterday and said he would make a statement after the disciplinary process is completed.
He has since changed his name on the Twitter website to JohnLDixon to emphasise he is posting in a private capacity.
The complaint was made to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in December last year, nearly six months after the messages were posted on Twitter.
The church alleged the messages impinged on the right to religious freedom and were being made in an official capacity, given the name CllrJohnDixon.
The publishers of Religion News Blog support freedom of religion as well as freedom of speech. We believe the councillor described the Church of Scientology while posting a private comment.
We also happen to agree with his assessment of Scientology — though we would use much stronger terms. For instance, our parent website, Apologetics Index, refers to Scientology as a hate group — based on the cult’s lengthy history of hate- and harassment activities.
We also consider the Church of Scientology to be a destructive cult. See, for instance, these research resources on Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ policy.
– ARS Acronym/Terminology FAQ