September 27 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

6-Josh_Williamson

Police hostility to Christian witness

Concern is growing over Christian religious freedom in the UK after an Evangelical street preacher was arrested in Perth last Wednesday for ‘disturbing the peace.’

This is the third Christian street preacher that has been arrested since July, and John Deighan, the Scottish bishops’ parliamentary officer, said he would like to see an investigation into why the police seemed so hostile to Christian witness.

The Rev Josh Williamson (above), pastor of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church, said he believed his arrest was part of a growing trend towards ‘an increasingly hostility towards Christianity.’

The officer who confronted him warn Mr Williamson that if he continued preaching he would be arrested. Mr Williamson replied that he would not comply because he was not breaking the law. A second man intervened and defended Mr Williamson’s right to preach but he was arrested by the police officer as well.

Mr Williamson said he was then taken to Perth police station.

“They took me into an interview room,” he said. “Towards the end of my interview the officer said to me: ‘You seem reasonable. Why don’t you just stop preaching?’ I replied by saying: ‘Let me ask you a question, is it better to obey man or God?’ With that the interview was over, and I was given a caution. The police also told me that if I preach again then we will go through the process all over again.”

Mr Deighan said the incident was a very concerning one.

“How many street preachers do we see in towns all over the country talking about war, hunger all sorts of issues, but if it’s only Christians who are getting carted off by the police that is a very worrying turn of events,” he said. “If you look at human rights law free speech means you have the right to offend people.”

He added that the police had to be clear on what exactly the crime was in this instance.

“We need to know exactly what the threshold is,” Mr Deighan said.

These thoughts were echoed by Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre in London. “This is the third arrest in as many months,” she said. “These street preachers are not breaking any laws and are perfectly within their rights.

“The threat to freedom of speech is a concern for wider society, not just for Christians.”

There is a need for greater clarity on this issue, she added.

“It’s evident that police all over the UK need clear guidance on this matter,” she said.

 

 

— ian@sconews.co.uk

—This story ran in full in the September 27 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes

 

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