Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. So all the vicious attacks on me for seeking publicity etc are misplaced. The headline is, in fact, a barefaced lie.
Marc Horne, the Sunday Times reporter, telephoned me out of the blue and asked whether I was aware of the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's visit. Yes, I said. He asked me if I was in favour of their initiative. Yes, I said, I am strongly in favour of it. Beyond that, I declined to comment to Marc Horne, other than to refer him to my 'Ratzinger is the Perfect Pope' article here. How the headline writer could go from there to "Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" is obscure to me.
The history is as follows. Christopher Hitchens first proposed to me the idea of a legal challenge to the Pope's visit on March 14th. I responded enthusiastically, and suggested the name of a high profile human rights lawyer whom I know. I had lost her address, however, and set about tracking her down. Meanwhile, Christopher made the brilliant suggestion of Geoffrey Robertson. He approached him, and Mr Robertson's subsequent 'Put the Pope in the Dock' article in The Guardian shows him to be ideal.
The case is obviously in good hands, with him and Mark Stephens. I am especially intrigued by the proposed challenge to the legality of the Vatican as a sovereign state whose head can claim diplomatic immunity.
Even if the Pope doesn't end up in the dock, and even if the Vatican doesn't cancel the visit, I am optimistic that we shall raise public consciousness to the point where the British government will find it very awkward indeed to go ahead with the Pope's visit, let alone pay for it.
But the Sunday Times headline is a straight lie, and the paper should apologise, both to me and to Marc Horne, the author.
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