Monday, October 18, 2021
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One Christian preaching the faith, 14 police silencing him

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OVER recent weeks the manner in which the Metropolitan Police prevented a Christian pastor going about his lawful duties has been in the hands of solicitors in a formal legal process seeking redress. It is therefore only now possible to make known the shocking police action on August 20 in Uxbridge, West London.

On this date I was preaching the gospel in the open area near to the entrance to the Underground station. I began preaching at around 1.05pm on Bible texts including, ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), and referring to the sinful hearts of all men. I moved on to speak of the state of the nation, and made a brief reference to the immorality of abortion and to the biblical teaching that marriage can be only between one man and one woman. I had been preaching for 15 or 20 minutes at the most when two police officers came up to me and said that ‘multiple complaints’ had been received about ‘hate speech’. A few minutes after that there were no fewer than 14 police on the scene.

Why was it necessary for so many officers to rush to deal with a pastor preaching from the Bible? The police were trying to give the impression that they were dealing with a serious public order problem, when there was no such problem at all. At one point they told onlookers to disperse, but the only reason for the increasing number of onlookers was all the police officers! In fact, there had been no adverse responses at all to the preaching in terms of heckling or gesticulations from passers-by.

The officers did not enter into any discussion about what had actually been said, and were unwilling to consider my own account. They were also unwilling to countenance the possibility that the complaints received may simply have been the subjective response of those who dislike Christian teaching anyway. Is it not the task of the police to investigate rather than to presume?

The officers expressed their concern about those in society with ‘protected characteristics’ (namely LGBT people), but did not demonstrate any parallel concern about the protected characteristic of religion, and, more particularly, about the protected characteristic of Christians who believe what the Bible teaches.

Concerning the police order to leave the area, without taking any notice of my plea that nothing remotely approaching hate speech had been engaged in, the impression was plainly given that if I refused to stop preaching and leave, an arrest would ensue. So I reluctantly complied. I suggested to one of the officers that they were acting as judge and jury, rather than trying to make inquiries.

The officers, when asked, were unable to repeat any words which I had allegedly spoken which could possibly come under the category of hate speech. They said that actual words did not matter, only that some people had taken offence. How can police possibly decide that a hate-speech crime has occurred if they cannot quote anything that was said?

When I asked the officers precisely how many complaints had been received, they insisted on adhering to the word ‘multiple’. Furthermore, an attempt by a colleague to explain the Redmond-Bate case to an officer was ignored. This was extremely relevant, because in the Redmond-Bate v DPP case of 1999 Lord Justice Sedley concluded that causing offence is not a crime, and ruled that freedom of speech under the law included ‘the irritating, the contentious . . . the unwelcome and provocative. Freedom to speak inoffensively is not worth having. A police officer has no right to call upon a citizen to desist from lawful conduct [in this regard]’.

I told an officer that if there were a Pride parade in Uxbridge, the police would be openly supporting it, my point being that the Metropolitan force appear to have no problem whatsoever about offence being caused in public to Christians. The officer replied that it would be totally appropriate for the police to support a Pride parade. This statement is surely an admission that the Met is not impartial when it comes to dealing with Christian ministers on LGBT-related issues.

The police action was nothing less than the State shutting down the public proclamation of the Christian faith. An ordained Christian minister carrying out his lawful activity in a temperate and reasonable manner should not be treated like a criminal and told to desist from preaching the very truths which Her Majesty the Queen promised to uphold in her Coronation oath. I consider that I deserve an unreserved apology from the Metropolitan Police for this shocking encroachment upon my freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ and biblical teaching in the highways and byways of our nation.

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Peter Simpson
Pastor Peter Simpson has been Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire since 1990, and is a keen open air preacher.

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