Freedom of speech ten miles away from me

This post is written under UK government restrictions on discussing homosexuality.

Premier Christian Radio reports today:

Preacher’s trial over homosexuality comments adjourned.  While standing as an independent election candidate in Colchester Paul Shaw distributed leaflets on which he stated homosexual acts should be made illegal.

Christian Quoter tells us:

Colchester Magistrates today agreed to adjourn the case of Christian brother, Paul Shaw, … [who] said:

“I believe for example that homosexual and lesbian acts are immoral and that the law should reflect that; by making them unlawful as they once were; and so acting as a deterrent to such behaviour. The concept of homophobia is nonsense and a play on words; it is not and has never been a phobia! A phobia is an un-natural fear; whereas a rejection of perverse behaviour; is a righteous godly fear; that fears to do wrong because it knows that there are consequences and punishment otherwise! This is the most pronounced example of a nation that has lost its way …”

It was the Crown Prosecutor who applied for an adjournment. This was in order, he said, to consider the case in the light of freedom of speech. The Magistrate, District Judge David Cooper, agreed.

A further article in Pink News (why is there no Christian comment on this?) says he was arrested on June 11th, and is known around the town as a street preacher.  eChurch Christian Blog tells us that Shaw was denounced to the police earlier in the year.  The Chelmsford Weekly News has the same story:

District judge David Cooper told him: “You said you were spreading God’s word and when interviewed you said children needed to be protected and basically, homosexuals and lesbians should repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Mr Shaw claimed that there would be “terrible consequences” if homosexuality was not made illegal again soon and warned that God’s judgment was “not very far away”.

He refused to be bound over to keep the peace, which is a criminal conviction. Instead, he said: “In four years, I’ve only dealt with homosexuality about twice. I have to act in good conscience, I’m afraid, and I think [homosexuality] is a particularly significant thing for this nation at this time.” The case was dismissed as the prosecution could offer no written evidence from complainants and Mr Shaw argued his right to free speech.

Mr Cooper warned him that further complaints could land him back in court and said: “There are other sorts of ‘sins’. Do you think you could concentrate on those for a bit?”

Shaw is now due for trial on 23rd September. 

I suspect from all this that Mr Cooper is a sensible chap who finds himself wondering why on earth he is being asked to decide what people are allowed to say, and why people can’t just get along.   But of course this is the front-line of a political war, and not a court matter at all.  One side has managed to get a law passed, allowing it to lock up the other for expressing an opinion.  So it was in the days of the State Trials, of evil memory.

At the bottom of the Pink News article is another article on a preacher arrested in May 2010.  And on March 18th an American preacher in Glasgow was arrested.

I finish this account of religious persecution and interference with free speech with a link to a columnist for the Independent, one of the major UK national newspapers, on The Slow Whining Death of British Christianity, abusing Christians in the most hateful terms possible, for daring to complain of persecution.  It reads like something from Der Sturmer.

Let us pray for the United Kingdom, for God’s mercy upon it, and also upon the persecutors, maddened by their vice and swollen with the arrogance that comes from believing oneself powerful.  No good consequence comes of such things, except for the church itself.  We might also read what Tertullian wrote to Scapula, in time of persecution.

UPDATE: Stephen Green notes in the comments that apparently the prosecution of Paul Shaw has been dropped by the CPS.  Good news!  Christian Quoter has the story.

9 Responses to “Freedom of speech ten miles away from me”


  1. Dioscorus Boles

    To say his opinion about homosexuality, Paul Shaw is displaying an essential freedom of speech which should be protected as long as he does not incite violence. However, I do think that he asking that homosexuality be made illegal is wrong. What I am against, on the other hand, is that others coerce us to believe that homosexuality is not sinful or unnatural.

    I can live in a society in which all can practise what they want as long as no one tries to suppress my opinion or coerce me to believe what I think is wrong.

    You perhaps will not find many comments on this subject despite the fact that you have revisited it again and again because I am afraid many Christians in the UK are not brave enough to say their opinion in the face of true or perceived persecution. Long gone is the day when Christians would be happy shedding their blood to witness for the Truth. And where are the leaders? What calibre are they compared to Thomas Moore or Thomas Bucket? I know these are not very well received by most Christians in the UK, but I do think they are the bravest Christians that this land has ever produced.

  2. Roger Pearse

    One of the virtues of England is the refusal to get very excited about politics. It’s why it is such a humane place. Everyone is silently ignoring these sorts of things, in the knowledge that those doing it will eventually go away.

    It probably has something to do with the weather.

  3. Street preacher Paul Shaw back in Colchester court again charged with using threatening words or behaviour towards gays | eChurch Christian Blog

    […] first comes from Christian blogger and patristic scholar Roger Pearce: Freedom of speech ten miles away from […]

  4. Jill

    Roger, I was pleased to discover your blog, thanks to Stuart.

    I am old enough to remember the1967 Sexual Offences Act, which exempted sexual acts between two consenting adult (over 21) males from prosecution, providing they took place in private.

    I totally agreed with this at the time, and still do, but with reservations I see no case for the state interfering in people’s morality (or immorality). But like a lot of things which seemed like a good idea at the time, the fallout has been horrendous. This case illustrates the early stages of tyranny, creating ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’ – the ‘in groups’ being gays and the ‘out groups’ being Christians – Roman Catholics being particular targets, for their refusal to budge on doctrinal matters. The stipulations ‘in private’ and ‘over 21’ no longer apply as the age of consent was lowered; indeed there is much pressure from gay activists to reduce the age of consent to 14.

    I agree with you that this is an attack on freedom of speech, as well as religious liberty, but it goes much deeper than that. There is a pernicious ‘newthink’ which allows no dissent. You mentioned the Independent – well, I have been banned from posting on their blogs. I have been guilty of putting some of the very ill-informed posters straight on Christian teaching on sex being intended solely for within marriage between a man and a woman, which didn’t at all fit in with their worldview. My comments drew much vitriol and were very quickly removed. The same has happened on Guardian and Observer blogs. Yet anti-Christian posts framed in the most abusive language are permitted to remain.

    Not everybody is guilty of moral cowardice, Dioscorus Boles. There are some very valiant fighters around, who suffer ridicule and taunting but carry on regardless. Sadly, though, many of the leaders in the Church of England will say what is expedient rather than what is right.

  5. Roger Pearse

    Thank you, Jill, for your thoughtful email.

    I am not old enough to remember the debate in 1967. But this would not be the only case where decriminalising something had the effect of opening the flood gates to further and further demands for concessions and privileges. It’s as if something that was banned becomes almost compulsory.

    Orwell saw it all, of course. Newspeak is regularly used to disguise the issues, to spin them, to mislead. Indeed the arguments made for legalisation were that it was no-one else’s business what people did in private. That quickly became “it is our right to parade in public” and then “it is our right to silence you criticising us in public” (as the preachers have found out) and then “if you say anything, even in your own home, you may be denounced to the police” (as those poor B&B owners found out the other day). Demands for “equality” — the primordial fake virtue, for none of us are equal, nor should be, except before the law — have become a tool for demanding privileges no ordinary man has.

    I am unsurprised by the Independent or Guardian. Hate is fine; so long as it is *their* hate. Which makes their enthusiasm for laws against “hate” rather cynical.

    We need not expect much from the CofE. Think who controls the appointments, if you will. It is many years since the secular group who control appointments decided to appoint homosexuals if they could.

    The attacks on the Catholic Church are undoubtedly for its refusal to compromise. All the stuff about child abuse is merely a pretext; because in each case the agenda is to damn the whole organisation, not the person responsible. Compare that with how teachers and scoutmasters caught doing the same are dealt with. I have yet to see demands for an investigation of the whole teaching system, nor of scouting. And all the while Peter Tatchell is there, demanding that 14 year old boys be made available for gay sex, without the slightest censure by those attacking the Catholics. The last time I pointed this induitable fact out, I received threats!

    We must expect abuse. Nothing we can say will prevent an atheist hurling the most appalling lies. But “Blessed are you when men lie about you for my name…”.

    The problem is one we can all see. What do we do about it?

    I think we start with the obvious interference with freedom of speech about politics and religion.

  6. Jill

    The irony of Peter Tatchell ‘protesting the Pope’ seems to be lost on many people – if his demands were met, then a goodly proportion of the ‘paedophile priest’ crimes would in fact be ‘homosexual priest’ crimes, as the majority (nearly 90 per cent) of the abuses were against adolescent boys, according to the John Jay study.

    I read today from that sub-Christian Think Tank Ekklesia that Peter Tatchell received a standing ovation at Greenbelt. You might be interested to read their report:

    http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12977

    and compare it with the article by my friend and colleague, Dr Lisa Nolland,

    http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2010/08/18/how-well-do-you-know-the-real-peter-tatchell/

  7. Roger Pearse

    The irony is considerable, and little appreciated. Tatchell’s supporters are not keen for these details to be known.

    Ekklesia is not a Christian group. It seems to be one man, or a small couple of people, pushing the agenda of the establishment into the church. I remember that they played an evil role in the persecution of the Christian Union at Exeter, colluding with the persecutors in heaping abuse on the Christians and then attempting to be made “arbitrators” of the dispute. (Someone needs to write an authoritative account of that whole sick episode; why should Christians collude in the silence of the bully?)

    Greenbelt has been dodgy for years. I remember them banning Larry Norman for preaching. The phrase “heretic” springs to mind. But then, who goes to Greenbelt any more?

    The article by Lisa Nolland is too long for me; but I’m glad someone has done this.

  8. Stephen Green

    This story has been reported on the Christian Voice website, http://www.christianvoice.org.uk . I am pleased to report that the CPS have now dropped all charges against Paul Shaw, whom we have been actively supporting.

  9. Roger Pearse

    Thanks for the update, Stephen, which is very good news. I am very glad to hear that the CPS saw sense. But of course it isn’t really the fault of the CPS, so much as the daft laws that make this censorship possible, and which need repeal.



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