A street preacher has been fined £1,000 by a Scottish court after answering a question about homosexuality.
Simon Calvert discusses thestory on Premier Christian Radio
Shawn Holes, who is American, was kept in a police cell overnight and then charged with a breach of the peace.
The accusation was that he had used “homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice”.
Concerns have been raised that this case shows religious freedom is under threat.
One commentator described the charges against the preacher as “grotesque”.
And ‘gay rights’ campaigner Peter Tatchell slammed the £1,000 fine as “totally disproportionate”.
Shawn Holes was in Scotland with a group of American colleagues preaching on a wide variety of topics.
“I was talking generally about Christianity and sin”, he said.
He continued: “I only talked about these other issues because I was specifically asked.
“There were homosexuals listening – around six or eight – who were kissing each other and cuddling, and asking ‘What do you think of this?'”
He responded to questions from the crowd about homosexuality. He affirmed that everyone, including homosexuals, needed to receive Christ as Saviour.
Mr Holes later commented: “It felt like a set-up by gay campaigners.”
The preacher was arrested on 18 March in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.
The Christian Institute gave financial backing to Mr Holes’ lawyer, Tony Kelly, who advised him to fight the charge.
Mr Kelly said: “This case raises important issues about the interface between the criminal law in Scotland, freedom of speech and religious freedom.”
However Mr Holes pleaded guilty because he said he could not stay in the country for the length of time necessary to defend himself.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “Peter Tatchell is right. The fine in this case was totally disproportionate.
“The police should not have arrested Mr Holes at all.
“We believe that had he fought the charge it would have been proved that he did nothing wrong. We are disappointed that Mr Holes pleaded guilty.”
Gordon Macdonald, of Christian Action Research and Education for Scotland, said: “This is a concerning case.
“I will be writing to Chief Constable Stephen House of Strathclyde Police for clarification of the guidance given to police officers in these situations.”
Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church, said it is “very difficult to see how this man can be charged for expressing a religious conviction”.
He continued, “The facts of this case show his statement was clearly his religious belief.
“Yes it is strong language he has used but it is obviously a religious conviction and not a form of discrimination.”
In England and Wales a ‘homophobic hatred’ law contains a free speech clause to protect religious liberty.
Conservative peer Lord Waddington won an amendment to protect free speech to the Westminster Government’s legislation.
The Government opposed Lord Waddington’s amendment, but nevertheless it successfully passed through Parliament and was incorporated into the new law.