Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, asking for guidance to be issued immediately to all officers concerning public expressions that homosexuality is sinful. The letter also asks for the officers who wrongly arrested a street preacher to be disciplined.
Earlier this month (1st July), American street preacher Tony Miano was arrested in Wimbledon under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
He was preaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 on the need to abstain from sexual immorality when a passerby reported him to the police for a homophobic offence. The Complainant had earlier told Mr Miano to “F*** off”.
The letter states: “Evangelist Tony Miano did no more than suggest that homosexual practice is a sin (not sexual orientation). As you might be aware, this is the position adopted by all the major churches in the United Kingdom.
“Furthermore, the Police officers appear to regard the term ‘F*** Off’ as non-offensive and lawful (as expressed by the Complainant); and the preaching from the Bible as offensive.”
Mr Miano was detained by police for nearly seven hours. At the police station he was fingerprinted, had a DNA sample taken and was interviewed under caution.
During the course of the interview he was not just questioned about the incident but also about his personal beliefs.
CLC argues that: “The questioning is unlawful as intrusive to ‘private life’ within Article 8 of the European Convention; and to the ‘forum internum’ within Article 9 of the Convention: Smith & Grady v United Kingdom (1999).
“From the transcript it appears as though the officers are convinced that if someone perceives there to have been a ‘homophobic incident’ then they believe an offence has occurred and therefore the speaker can be arrested.
“We remain of the view that no reasonable Police officer would arrest a Christian for preaching a Bible message in the circumstances of this case, nor pursue such an offensive line of questioning.”
Raft of cases
The incident follows a raft of cases, listed in the letter, in which Police have wrongly used their powers to intimidate or silence Christians who have spoken of homosexuality as a sin.
Despite court acquittals and payments of damages, arrests are continuing as the Christian message is driven from the public square. The scale of such arrests and dismissals from employment of Christians could well increase as a consequence of the legalisation of same sex marriage.
CLC says that these incidents demonstrate the need for clear guidance to be issued to all officers immediately that the Bible message on the ‘sin of homosexuality’ is lawful, unless expressed in a manner which breaches the terms of section 29 of the Public Order Act 1986.
“We would like to see clear guidance from the Metropolitan Commissioner that Christians preaching from the bible that homosexual conduct is sinful is lawful free speech,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Legal Centre.
“The police officers in this case found that the complainant saying ‘F*** Off’ was non-offensive and lawful but that the evangelist’s preaching from the bible was an arrestable offence. Free speech is under threat and we need to protect it. We hope that the Commissioner will take a lead in this.”