Street Preaching is Not Illegal

Yes, we knew it already, but two cases ruled this week very clearly that police who arrest Christian preachers for quoting Scripture are themselves beaking the law.

An autistic Christian street preacher who was handcuffed and arrested for speaking out against homosexuality and many other sins has been awarded £4,250 in damages following a court case against West Midlands Police.

In a case backed by The Christian Institute, Birmingham County Court ruled on Wednesday that PC Adrian Bill committed assault and battery against Mr Anthony Rollins when he handcuffed him unnecessarily.

The court also ruled that Mr Rollins was wrongfully arrested, unlawfully detained and his human rights to free speech and religious liberty were infringed. The court ordered the police to pay Mr Rollins’ legal costs.

and

In a second similar case in recent days, a Christian street preacher has won £7,000 plus costs from Cumbria Police in settlement for a claim of wrongful arrest, unlawful imprisonment and breach of his human rights.

Dale Mcalpine, aged 42, of Workington in Cumbria brought the case against the police following his arrest on 20 April this year. The police have accepted they acted unlawfully.

Mr Mcalpine’s case was funded by The Christian Institute, a group that protects the civil liberty of Christians.

Well done to the Christian Institute for funding the legal fight in both these cases and well done to the relevant judges who clearly understood that Section 5 does not prohibit preaching from Scripture (as long as you’re not abusinve of course).

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  • Tom

    By why should biblical hatred be privileged?

    • Derek

      Tom,

      Please define 'biblical hatred'.

      • Tom

        Derek,
        That it was okay for God to practice genocide on numerous occasions. In the story of Noah, for example, it wasn't just the adult wrongdoers who were killed, but all the children and the unborn in their mothers' wombs – to say nothing of the animals. According to the story every living being, innocent or guilty, apart from Mr and Mrs Noah and family, was killed. Probably this meant being beaten to death by the force of the rain since to cover the earth in 40 days, Everest being 5 miles high, would require rains to fail at 6 inches per minute. A force 5 hurricane only falls at 6 minutes per hour….

        Then the little matter of killings ordered by God in Leviticus, for various transgressions that we would not consider capital offences, let alone moral ones…..

        • Anonymous

          Tom

          Wow, that's an awful lot of issues that you seem to want to cover in one post: the orthodox biblical view of homosexual behaviour; free speech and the appropriate boundary of its limits; divinely ordained killing; the doctrine of the justice of God. …

          Which one do you want to tackle? Take your pick …. :-)

          • Tom

            Hello Philip, Derek asked me to define biblical hatred. Kind of huge subject in itself. Let's take divinely ordained killing (by a loving God) since that seems the circle I'll most enjoy hearing you try to square. :-)

            • Anonymous

              Tom

              Challenge accepted! But not for tonight. South Africa is 2 hours ahead of the Uk currently and it's now time for my beddy-byes! I've also exhausted my creative juices just now responding to Alathia! :-)

              • Tom

                And Hey Philip, I also found this from you! :-)

        • Tom

          Doh,, should have said 6 inches per hour.

      • Tom

        Derek, don't get me wrong. I think if someone wants to stand at a street corner and preach the only objection I would have is if he used one of those electric megaphones. That would be invading my space and peace….or if he was drumming up hatred as Peter has already said. That is a difficult line to draw and the police were probably heavy-handed. I just wonder why some street preachers feel the need to bang on about homosexuality when the Bible has comparatively few texts that mention it and even then doesn't actually have that as a word in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek that translates as such (except in sloppy misleading modern translations). I remember Lord Soper used to stand on a soap box at Hyde Park Corner every Sunday but I think he found plenty to preach about apart from homosexuality. I am not aware that he spoke about it at all. If these two street preachers can't get their minds out of gay men's underpants it tells us more about them.

  • Alathia

    I wonder what these devout Christians did with their compo? This would be interesting to know. Last year my father won a settlement against his local NHS Trust for negligence – a considerable sum. However my father refused the money (despite being a pensioner on pension credit and housing benefit) but wanted assurances that procedures would be in place to prevent similar misfortune happening to others. The money, as he so well recognised, is NOT the NHS’s but our money – the tax payers and it would serve a better purpose being used by the NHS for health care. My father is Spiritualist and not a Christian and yet there is a good deal we can learn from his behaviour.

    One does wonder, with this burgeoning community of professional martyrs, if on occasion there aren’t alternative motives for defending the right to ‘preach the gospel’ or bring God into the secular work place. Sometimes (as my father demonstrates) leading by example can be far more challenging (cf. 1Pet 2: 12) harping on about homosexuality – tho’ of course without the reward of publicity or ready cash… I think there is too much emphasis on Lev 18:22 and not enough on Matt 5: 38-48; which is particularly ironic, given the latter is a record of Jesus’ preaching.

    “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
    1Pet 2: 12

    • Anonymous

      Alathia

      With all due respect, I think that you conflate two issues in your post that do not belong together.

      1) The actions of your father are truely admirable. It seems clear to me from your description that his action against the NHS was motivated only by the desire to make sure that no-one was exposed to the negligence from which he had suffered in the future. He sounds like a wonderful public-spirited man and I wish that there were more people like him around!

      2) These two cases are very different. They were 'free speech' cases that set out to establish that simply stating the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual behaviour is a sin in a public sermon (which is what street preaching is) is not an offence. There was no suggestion in the cases that either preacher was advocating hatred or violence against gay people. They were arrested by the police based on complaints from people that they were 'offended' by public preaching that homosexual behaviour is a sin.

      For me there are three important issues here, none of which have anything to do with the belief (or not) that homosexual behaviour is a sin:

      2.1. The cases have firmly established that simply preaching on the orthodox Christian view that homosexual behaviour is a sin is not an offence under the Public Order Act or under the more recent Equality Act. And, whatever you think of the views of the two preachers, the protection of free speech that has been affirmed in these two rulings is very important in an open, democratic society.
      2.2. Secondly, the award of damages sends a powerful sign that police abuse of their powers of arrest will not be taken lightly. This is especially significant in the light of a number of well-publicised examples of police in the UK taking Christians in for questioning or giving them verbal warnings after people had complained that they were 'offended' by public expression of the view that homosexual behaviour is a sin. Christians who have suffered from such treatment at the hands of the police have had little redress. For example, a verbal warning would be registered on police records on the individual, but the only redress would be through the independent complaints system. The significance of these two cases is that the two preachers were arrested, so they had a case 'wrongful arrest' to pursue. And the significance of the damages award is that it sends a powerful signal that police abuse of people who, respectfully and without incitement to hatred or violence, express the orthodox Christian view that homosexual behaviour is a sin, will not be tolerated. The importance of the damages lies in the signal that it sends to the police and, frankly, what the guys do with the money is secondary. Hopefully this will now mean that the police will think more carefully before setting the Plods loose on someone who has just written a letter to the press!
      2.3. Although I think that this point is less clear cut, the success award of damages for these two cases does I think establish some precedent that the police are not required to automatically investigate a crime simply based on a person's report that they are 'offended' by what they say that some other person has said. They have to take other factors into account, including the other person's right to free speech. Simply put, I think it establishes some important guidance for the police that they have to respond to the full range of relevant factors in investigating a reported crime, not simply a person's reported 'offence'. And, in a society where people should be free from arbitrary police action, I think that is an important precedent as well!

      • Alathia

        Philip

        Thank you for the comments.

        I must say that I don’t think I was confusing an issue – tho’ with limited space and not wishing to bore Peter who has to plough thro’ all these posts, I did cut down my original reply and that may have resulted in confusion.

        I think the real problem lies in the fact the prophetic nature of Christian suffering has been lost. Hence the reason why I specifically used Matt 5 and 1 Pet 2; the latter has particular resonance because it was addressed to Christians living in a hostile environment. The question I posed is purposefully facetious – financial compensation is of little merit here. The fact the right to free speech has been upheld, is laudable – tho’ there is also a price to be paid for this on the part of Christians and that is they can’t really moan when non-Christians use their right of free speech to point out the flaws in Christianity.

        I will add that I am rather saddened that street preachers want to concentrate on one or two verses of Scripture when there are 30,000-odd others they could use. The ‘easy morality’ of boring passers by about the ‘sin’ of homosexuality is something which itself needs to be questioned. Unless the preacher was on Old Compton Street it is fair to say that by far the greater number of the potential audience would not be troubled by the ‘sin’ of homosexuality – greed, idolatry, false-witness yes, but not homosexuality. This very fact makes me less sympathetic to these ‘Evangelical’ souls.

        As for professional martyrs, I was being a tad facetious concerning some of the cases the Christian Institute has taken on. Call me an old cynic, but I can’t rid myself of the thought that cash compensation – in some of the employment cases – may well be an additional, though potent, motivating factor, in addition to ‘religious conscience’.

    • Tom

      How does, 'turn the other cheek' fit in here, Alathia, when the preacher goes for damages?

      • Alathia

        Tom

        Yes, that is a good point and what I meant by my reference to 'the prophetic nature of suffering” – the root of the word ‘martyr’ 'marturion' (a regular in New Testament Greek) is ‘witness’ – not 'financially compensated plaintiff'. The question is why so many Christians are eager for respectability! This is certainly NOT something found in the New Testament and yet something many Christian organisations (such as the Christian Institute – itself hardly a paragon of virtue when it comes to unbiased reporting – have a look at its website, it has the feel of the Daily Mail or (worse) Daily Express website!) seem to have eschewed in what appears a desire for social and political power. From Constantine onwards, it is apparent Christianity and politics are not always a healthy mixture and this probably explains why it is only with the advent of liberal secular democracy that Western nations have made any real progress with enacting the major part of the morality of the Torah and New Testament (the looking after widows and orphans, civil rights, equity before the law etc. – tho’ again many Christians get bogged down with a morality biased towards what people do in private – a very small part of the Torah). Which is rather worrying and suggests whatever religion is, it is not a sure route to a fair and 'moral' society. Sadly, research from Birmingham's Religion & Development program (see: http://www.religionsanddevelopment.org/index.php?… suggests the more religious a society, the corrupt!

        No, I think there has to be acknowledgement that although many Christians (and no doubt Muslims and Jews) may feel devout and from that devotion also see that they have a role to play in society, there are also less well defined notions about wanting – or regaining – social and political power. The fact that 1,900 years of history tells us, that this is not a wise move – there are few, if any, examples in history of a fair and equitable society that has also been primarily Christian. It should also be noted that at no point in the New Testament is there any advocacy for Christians seeking social and political power.

        These issues aside, the heavy handed approach of the police with the street preacher with autism cannot be condoned. Tho’ how the police were supposed to know he had autism when they first had dealings with him is also a good question – and from personal experience I can assure you some people with autism can become pretty belligerent and even aggressive when questioned about their actions. Autism itself burdens the sufferer with an inability to have either empathy or an understanding of another’s point of view. Hence the wider question of whether it was really safe for a man with his disability to be out alone preaching on the more divisive passages of Scripture. This too raises awkward questions about human rights and the welfare of both the public and those with a learning disability.

        These are my ramblings on the topic. But I agree with you Tom; I think Christians have to ask why ‘turning the other cheek’ has now become less preferable to court cases, courting media interest, pages and pages of blog space, professional martyrdom and cash settlements…

        • Tom

          Sorry, Alathia, I have only just spotted your answer. Thanks for that. I just wanted to let you know I had read it.

  • tony

    the street preacher in question says its sin because it is SIN, read the bible, repent of your sins or pay the price in torment in the fires of HELL.

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