Council backs down over Christian leaflets
St Edmundsbury Borough Council has backed down over its attempt to stop a Christian from handing out evangelistic leaflets to members of the public.
Brian Dee, a member of The Open Air Mission (OAM), had been preaching in the Bury St Edmunds Market Place on Wednesday afternoons for more than ten years, and handing out Christian tracts. But in January this year, Council officials told Mr Dee that distributing the leaflets was prohibited under a local byelaw aimed at reducing litter.
Mr Dee contacted The Christian Institute (http://www.christian.org.uk), which was able to support his case through its Legal Defence Fund.
Mr Dee’s solicitors were concerned that the Council’s actions threatened Mr Dee’s rights under the Human Rights Act (1998), which protect individuals’ freedom of expression and religion. The solicitors informed the Council that if it continued to prevent Mr Dee from handing out the leaflets, Mr Dee would proceed with legal action.
The Council has now admitted that there were no complaints or evidence that Mr Dee’s leaflets were causing a littering problem, and has told Mr Dee that he can continue distributing them. They have also offered to review the byelaw to see if it is inconsistent with human rights legislation.
The Institute’s Mike Judge said: “We are delighted that common sense has prevailed in this case.
“We live in a free and open society. It is important for democracy that people have freedom to exchange ideas without interference from public bodies.
“We are glad that St Edmundsbury Borough Council has recognised Mr Dee’s right to hand out Christian leaflets and are pleased that Mr Dee did not have to take further legal action to exercise his free speech and religious liberty rights.”