Two Christian pensioners who were interrogated by police officers because they disagreed with their council’s promotion of homosexuality have called for a change to the public order law.
Watch an interview with Joe and Helen
Joe and Helen Roberts, from Fleetwood in Lancashire, telephoned Wyre Borough Council in 2005 to express their disagreement with its “homosexual rights” policy.
But following the Roberts’ call two police officers came to their home saying that the couple were close to committing a ‘hate crime’, and subjected them to 80 minutes of questioning.
Now, in a bid to ensure that other Christians don’t have to endure such a harrowing experience, the Roberts have called for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The couple said: “We hadn’t committed any crime, we had just expressed an opinion. But we were interviewed by police officers for over an hour because of our Christian beliefs.
“We both felt our Christian and democratic rights to voice our opinion was violated. We don’t want it to happen to other people. You can help protect others.
“Please tell your MP that the Freedom Bill should repeal the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.”
Last week Christian street preacher Dale Mcalpine called for a change to the public order law.
Mr Mcalpine said: “I should not have been treated like this, and I don’t want other people to be treated like this either.
“That’s why I’m asking you to tell your MP that the Freedom Bill should repeal the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. Your action could make a big difference.”
Watch an interview with Dale Mcalpine
Watch an interview with the Vogelenzangs
Earlier in the month two Christian hoteliers from Liverpool who were subjected to a criminal trial because of comments they made about Islam also called for the law to be reformed.
Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who were declared innocent last December, were prosecuted under Section 5 of the Public Order Act after a female Muslim guest complained that she had been offended by the couple’s comments.
Speaking last week Mrs Vogelenzang said: “As Christians we should help each other. We want to help people by making sure that this can’t happen again to anyone else.
“That’s why we are asking you to tell your MP that the Freedom Bill should repeal the word ‘insulting’ from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.”
A number of other groups are also calling for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5.
Justice, a civil liberties organisation, has argued that Section 5 is an “extremely broad offence” and that removing the word insulting “would go some way to prevent the overuse of this power in the context of protests and demonstrations”.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has also called for the removal of the word “insulting”, expressing concern that it was being used to restrain freedom of speech.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto promised that the Party would: “Restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest even if it offends”.
In 2009 Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, now Attorney General, said he was “sympathetic” to the idea of repealing the word “insulting” from the Public Order Act.
Ed Miliband, the new leader of the Labour Party, has admitted that the former Labour Government went too far in restricting civil liberties.