Over the weekend a Christian street preacher was arrested outside Southgate tube station, London N14. It is reported that he was being ‘Islamophobic’, but what preceded the encounter with the Metropolitan Police is unknown. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter, because the officers who attended the scene simply asked him to leave: presumably, had an offence been committed, they would have arrested him and taken him in for questioning. They didn’t do that, so the crime for which he was arrested occurred during the one-and-a-half minutes filmed in this video:
What is interesting here is not only the arresting officers’ ignorance of the law (unless the street preacher is using “threatening or abusive” language [Public Order Act 1986, Section 5], it is entirely lawful), but the rudeness and unreasonableness of their response. They didn’t de-escalate; they provoked and worsened the situation.
The officer asked the preacher what he was doing there. He replied simply that he was preaching, to which the officer responded: “I’m going to require you to go away.”
Preaching the gospel on the Queen’s highway is not a crime. He was threatened with arrest for causing a breach of the peace, but the Queen’s peace was not being breached.
As the preacher pointed this out and refused to “go away”, he began expounding the gospel: “Jesus is on the way – the truth,” he said, which was met rather tersely with: “Nobody wants to listen to that.”
Indeed, nobody wants to hear the truth that salvation is in Christ alone. Nobody wants to hear the message of the cross: it is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
When the preacher pointed out that they may want to know that when they are dead, they not only handcuffed him, but tore away his Bible.
“Don’t take my Bible away! Don’t take my Bible away!” pleaded the street preacher. To which a police officer responded: “You should have thought about that before being racist.”
You can bet they wouldn’t have handled a copy of the Qur’an like that.
Speaking of Islam, this is how UK police defend the rights of a Muslim preacher:
(Thanks to Leave.EU for the juxtaposition)
Both preachers have a right to freedom of speech, though it may be observed that the Muslim preacher was rather more aggressive (if not threatening) with it. Yet it was the Christian who was arrested for allegedly causing a breach of the peace.
Christians are called to be non-violent extremists, and freedom of speech includes the right to cause offence. In 1999 Lord Justice Sedley championed the rights of people to express unorthodox views, and quoted Socrates and two famous Quakers in doing so. There is no breach of the peace if what is uttered is merely offensive. He said: “Free speech includes not only the offensive, but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, providing it does not tend to provoke violence.”
Christophobia and the persecution of Christians is, of course, far more advanced (and lethal) in many other countries of the world than it is in the UK. Premier has launched a new campaign ‘Stop Christophobia‘ in response to the Government’s review into the persecution of Christians around the world. It is calling on Christians to sign a petition to encourage the government to take practical and effective steps, which will protect Christian minorities from discrimination and persecution on a global scale.
Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier said: “The UK Government has a role on a global platform to intervening where it can to protect Christian minorities, that is why we welcome the review announced last month by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As Christians who care for the persecuted we cannot simply standby and ignore their suffering.”
The UK Government also has a role and a responsibility to protect the rights of Christians in this country. If a street preacher may no longer proclaim the gospel without being arrested for ‘Islamophobia’ or ‘homophobia’ or causing a breach of the peace, then we no longer have freedom of religion.
Well, Christians don’t.