Commentators speak out over street preacher arrest

Tue, 4 May 2010

The arrest of a Christian street preacher for expressing his religious belief about same-sex conduct has been slammed by media commentators.

Dale Mcalpine, who made no mention of homosexuality during his public sermon, was arrested last month after he described same-sex conduct as a “sin” during a private conversation with two Police Community Support Officers.

Commentator Melanie Phillips has warned that Christianity is being criminalised under the pretence of tolerance.

Crime

Writing in the Daily Mail she said: “It would appear that Christianity, the normative faith of this country on which its morality, values and civilisation are based, is effectively being turned into a crime.

“Surreally, this intolerant denial of freedom is being perpetrated under the rubric of promoting tolerance and equality – but only towards approved groups.”

Her concerns were echoed by fellow commentator Peter Hitchens, who said: “Now, as the case of Dale Mcalpine shows, we are close to the point where a person can be prosecuted for saying in public that homosexual acts are wrong.

Controversy

“And officers of the law, once required to stay out of all controversy, get keen official endorsement when they take part in open political demonstrations in favour of homosexual equality.

He added: “And at the same time, the freedom of Christians to follow their beliefs in workplaces is under aggressive attack.

“Small and harmless actions, offers of prayer, the wearing of crucifixes, requests to withdraw from duties, are met with official rage and threats of dismissal, out of all proportion.”

Tolerant

And Daily Telegraph blogger Cristina Odone has warned that religious liberty is under threat.

She said: “Freedoms of speech and conscience are important, but do not automatically trump all individual rights. A civilised, tolerant society requires negotiation between these freedoms and rights, between a preacher’s right to proclaim his beliefs and a gay’s freedom to live out her sexuality.

“Such negotiation requires confidence in one’s own belief system and respect for those of others. These qualities have been quashed, instead, by a tiny and unrepresentative political class that respects only the secularist side of the equation. Police and judges take their cue from this class.”

Mr Mcalpine is not alone in encountering problems while preaching in public.

Colchester, 2010

In March a district judge threw out the case of a Christian street preacher in Colchester who was arrested by police because of comments he made about homosexual conduct.

Paul Shaw, 62, was arrested on February 19 after complaints about his preaching outside a Debenhams department store in the town.

But the prosecution could not proceed because there was neither evidence nor written statements from the complainants, resulting in the judge dismissing the case.

Gainsborough, 2008

A moderate Christian preacher, Andy Robertson, was wrongly told by a police officer that it is a crime to publicly express the religious belief that homosexual conduct is sinful.

South Wales, 2006

Stephen Green, a Christian campaigner, was arrested for handing out evangelistic tracts at a gay pride festival in Cardiff. Police admitted that he had not behaved in a violent or aggressive manner, but confirmed that officers arrested him because the leaflets contained biblical quotes about homosexuality.

Mr Green was held at a police station for four hours, questioned, charged and eventually committed for trial. The case against Mr Green was subsequently dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Bournemouth, 2002

Harry Hammond, a Christian pensioner, was convicted under the public order laws for saying that homosexuality was immoral.

Mr Hammond, 69 at the time and suffering from Asperger Syndrome, was preaching in Bournemouth town centre holding a sign bearing the words, ‘Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’.

But a crowd of around 40 people who disagreed with his preaching forced him to the ground where some people poured mud and water on him.

When two police officers eventually turned up at the scene it was Mr Hammond who was arrested and charged. No violent members of the crowd were arrested. Mr Hammond died the following year.