Gay rights campaigner defends street preacher
Mon, 17 May 2010
Homosexual campaigner Peter Tatchell has come to the aid of a Christian street preacher who was arrested for expressing his beliefs about same-sex conduct.
Street preacher Dale Mcalpine was arrested last month after he said that homosexual conduct was a “sin” during a conversation with a Police Community Support Officer, but last week it was revealed that the charges had been dropped.
The arrest was widely denounced by media commentators, and now Mr Tatchell has urged Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to curb politically correct authorities by issuing guidance that would prevent similar arrests in the future.
Speaking to a homosexual news website Mr Tatchell said that people should not be arrested for expressing their views in a “non-threatening and non-aggressive manner.”
He added: “Causing offence to others is not a legitimate basis for putting a person on trial. Nearly everyone holds opinions that someone else might find offensive.
“If offending others is accepted as a basis for prosecution, most of the population of the UK would end up in court.”
The Home Office has yet to respond.
Mr Tatchell also defended Mr Mcalpine’s right to freedom of speech, saying: “Freedom of speech means accepting the right of other people to say things that we may find disagreeable and even offensive.
“Unless people make untrue libellous comments or incite violence, they should not be criminalised for expressing their opinions”.
Mr Tatchell’s concerns were echoed by Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, who said: “This was a ridiculously over-the-top reaction to someone exercising their right to freedom of speech. Mr Mcalpine has as much right to criticise homosexuals as I should have to call him a crank.
“This kind of hypersensitivity to offence is wrong whether it comes from Christians or gay people. So long as no incitement to violence is involved and so long as non-violent response is permitted there should be no restriction on free debate.”
A number of media commentators have previously spoken out against the arrest of Mr Mcalpine.
Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, warned: “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.”
Daily Telegraph blogger Cristina Odone warned that the arrest represented a threat to religious liberty.
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.”