A Christian street preacher in Cumbria has been arrested and charged with a crime after he expressed his religious beliefs about homosexual conduct.
Dale Mcalpine, of Workington in Cumbria, appeared before local magistrates on Friday and pleaded not guilty to breaching section 5 of the Public Order Act.
Mr Mcalpine is being supported by The Christian Institute, a leading national defender of Christian religious liberty.
He was preaching publicly in the town on 20 April this year but he insists he never spoke about the subject of homosexuality during his public sermon.
He says two Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) approached him and one identified himself as a homosexual.
According to Mr Mcalpine, that PCSO warned him not to say homosexual conduct is “sinful” because it would be a crime.
The PCSO also identified himself as a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer.
Mr Mcalpine told the PCSO that it is not a crime to describe same-sex practice as a “sin”.
Police officers later arrived on the scene. Mr Mcalpine was then arrested and held in a police cell before being charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” contrary to Section 5 of the public order act.
Not a crime
Solicitor-advocate for The Christian Institute, Sam Webster, says it is not a crime to express the belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.
“A Christian who stands in a public place and expresses his religious beliefs in the hope of persuading passers-by of his views – that is freedom of speech.
“Yes, the police have a duty to maintain public order but they also have a duty to defend the lawful free speech of citizens. It’s not for police to decide whether Mr Mcalpine’s views are right or wrong.
“Case law has ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.”
In November last year, the Government was defeated in Parliament over its attempt to repeal a free speech safeguard to a law against ‘sexual orientation hatred’.
The safeguard, introduced by former Home Secretary Lord Waddington, makes clear that criticising homosexual conduct, or encouraging someone to refrain from such conduct, is not in itself a crime.
The Labour party has vowed to remove the free speech protection if it wins the next general election.
In 2008 the Lib Dems forced a Commons vote in a failed attempt to repeal the Waddington safeguard, but allowed a free vote in the Lords in 2009.
The Tories allowed a free vote. David Cameron and the shadow cabinet supported the free speech protection and in the most recent Commons vote no Tory MP voted to repeal it.