Police uphold free speech for street preachers

Christian street preachers are benefitting from an intervention by The Christian Institute.

Last June, Avon and Somerset Police wrongly issued a dispersal order to Dale McAlpine and a group of fellow street preachers, threatening them with arrest for preaching in Bath during their annual tour.

But following assistance at that time from The Christian Institute, police forces are now showing a better understanding of free speech and the rights of street preachers to proclaim the Gospel.

Freedom of expression

Avon and Somerset Police issued an apology to McAlpine in October, and promised to ensure all staff “understand the importance of freedom of expression”.

Sergeant Jonathan Raisey admitted that it had not been appropriate to issue a dispersal notice, adding that “officers should have acted differently”, and that freedom of speech is “an essential part of a democratic society”.

McAlpine and his fellow street preachers have since conducted this year’s tour without police intervention.

The first three days of open air preaching passed without incident, and the preacher noted such a spell without contact from the police was “very unusual”.

‘Very angry individuals’

Even when the police did make an appearance in Lincoln, their contact was minimal, with McAlpine commenting that “they spoke to us and listened for a while, left, and we never saw them again”.

He reported that the next day in Bath, a large crowd gathered and there was “opposition from some very angry individuals”.

However, rather than a repeat of last year’s difficulties, the police respected the street preachers’ freedom of expression.

McAlpine said: “The police arrived and asked us if we were having any difficulty and if so we were to give them a shout.”

Positive impact

Commenting on the group’s return to Bath the following week, he said: “As we were leaving two PCSOs came and spoke with us after a complaint was made and were extremely respectful taking into account our right to freedom of expression.”

The street preacher also gave a small insight into the positive impact of the tour.

During the tour, he received an email from a lady who revealed her brother had come to Christ as a result of hearing the Word preached the previous day.

Welcome reports

The Christian Institute’s Solicitor Advocate Sam Webster welcomed the news.

“Some Christians fear they are no longer able to share the Gospel publicly. This is not the case. I hope the positive experience of Dale and his fellow preachers will provide encouragement.”

If you are a Christian and experience difficulty because of a stand that you have taken on an issue of biblical concern, please get in touch with our Legal Defence team, as they may be able to help.

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