British tourist arrested and about to be deported from Sri Lanka because of her Buddha tattoo


British tourist Naomi Coleman poses for a photograph to display a tattoo of the Buddha on her upper arm, after she was arrested at Sri Lanka’s main international airport and later ordered with deportation for having a tattoo of the Buddha, in Colombo on April 22, 2014. A 37-year-old British nurse recounted her “hellish” experience in Sri Lanka after she was arrested and sent to a deportation centre for sporting a Buddha tattoo deemed offensive by authorities. Naomi Coleman was arrested at the country’s main international airport shortly after her arrival on a flight from neighbouring India and appeared before a magistrate who ordered her deportation, police said in a statement. AFP PHOTO / LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI (LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

From BBC News:

Naomi Coleman was arrested as she arrived at the airport in the capital Colombo after authorities spotted the tattoo on her right arm.

A police spokesman said the 37-year-old from Coventry was arrested for “hurting others’ religious feelings”….

Ms Coleman is being held at an immigration detention camp after a magistrate ordered her deportation.

She is expected to be removed within days.

Sri Lanka is particularly sensitive about images of the Buddha….

Ms Coleman said there was initially no problem with officials but two taxi drivers and a plain clothes police officer told her she was breaking the law and brought her to a police station to make a statement.

For some similar Sri Lankan incidents, see here, here, and here. For more posts about similar matters over the past several years worldwide — though generally involving not just deportation of tourists, but criminal prosecutions of alleged blasphemers, and sometimes even death sentences — see here. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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