No more free speech

I have just updated the blog header, and also the About page, to remove the references to my interest in freedom of speech online.  Old posts on the subject will remain, but I have no plans to post more on this subject.

I grew up in times in which you could express pretty much any political or religious opinion that you pleased, so long as it wasn’t indecent or calculated to insult those who were with.  A man full of wine might express himself particularly strongly; and the worst he might hear would be “It’s a free country”.  When the internet came along, people like ourselves found ourselves able to say whatever we wished to people anywhere in the world.  There was much abuse; but nothing worse than trolling.

Those days are gone.  In the US the constitution still offers much protection from legal action, but extra-legal intimidation  is rampant, designed to deprive political opponents of the means to feed their families.  In the UK police forces boast how they scan social media for opinions, and the same US-style intimidation is also in effect here.  On the continent prosecutions for opinion have never ceased, as the political elite increasingly grow out of touch with their peoples.  These are sad times.

Increasingly I see a trend whereby the powerful deny free speech to their political opponents.  I see companies being advised to Google for job candidates, in case they are “unsafe”.  Those who still dare to protest are almost all of one political complexion, and that not the one in power.  To protest is increasingly presented, cynically, as a party statement.

Bluntly, free speech, of the kind that we all remember from 15 years ago, has vanished.  Prudent people must comport themselves accordingly.

Let us hope for better days.

Street preacher arrested on frivolous grounds, held overnight, brought to court in Dundee, Scotland

From time to time in every British town you see sandwichboardmen.  These are often elderly men, often alone or with a tiny group of supporters, preaching in the street.  They received their name from their habit of wearing sandwichboards, adorned with slogans such as “Prepare to meet thy God” and “The wicked shalt burn in hell” or similar biblical verses.  They often belong to fringe denominations.  They’re usually working class.  And they are always ignored by everyone.  It must take quite some determination to preach in the face of such indifference, but they do.  They’re entirely harmless.

A few years ago it would have been inconceivable that the police would start taking down their words, arresting them, listening to informers shrieking accusations or worse, bundling them into police vans and keeping them in the police cells for hours on end.  But so it has happened.

I learn from the web that Tony Miano, an American former policeman, was arrested yesterday while packing up after preaching, on accusations from some poor woman shrieking that “my son is gay” and threatening to call the police.  The Christian Concern website tells the awful story:

Police in Scotland have arrested a Christian street evangelist after a woman complained that he had spoken about sexual sin.

Tony Miano, a US preacher and a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, was arrested yesterday (08 JAN) and remanded in custody to appear before Dundee Sheriff Court at 10:00 today (09 JAN).

He was part of a street preaching team holding a week-long mission in Scotland.

He was the second of the street pastors to address lunchtime shoppers in Dundee High Street. He talked about the nature of sin; about the different sins that Jesus had come to save people from when a woman began to shout at him.  He was preaching about sin in general and when he mentioned sexual sin including adultery, promiscuity and homosexual practice, the woman shouted that her son was gay.

Mr. Miano’s colleague, Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, who was present at the incident explains: “Tony wasn’t focussing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin. A woman was yelling at him and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.”

He says the first woman then appeared to be calling the police on her mobile just as a council warden came along and said that while we were doing nothing wrong, and had the right to free speech, we should move on.

Mr. Miano finished his preaching in a few minutes and as the street preachers packed up two police officers arrived.  At this point Pastor Williamson says the women shouted that they would get the preachers arrested.

“The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van,” says Pastor Williamson.

He says the male officer interviewed the women and then immediately arrested Mr. Miano, but did not question him or explain why he was being arrested.

“After Tony was put in the police van I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language,” says Josh Williamson.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, says the incident raises serious questions about police procedure and understanding of the law in dealing with such incidents.

“This appears to be an overzealous reaction by the police. The incident, adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible. It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak  and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible,” says Andrea.

She adds that the Christian Legal Centre is ready to serve anyone who is challenged for expressing their Christian beliefs.

“At the Christian Legal Centre we are committed to helping people to continue to preach the Gospel in our nation.”

Tony Miano was arrested in July last year, in London, for alleged ‘homophobic’ comments. The case was dropped.

He has been remanded in custody to appear before Dundee Sheriff’s Court today (09 JAN) at 10:00.

We need not blame the police.  There can be no doubt that the political establishment has instructed the police to harass and arrest anyone who makes any public criticism of homosexuality, and to treat complaints about this as a priority.

Of course the case must be dismissed.  But Mr. Miano has been given “the process is the punishment” treatment.  The object, clearly, is to intimidate him.

Let us congratulate Tony Miano for his courage in confessing Christ and preaching on this subject, despite the threats of the establishment.

Let us pray, both for the poor woman who informed on him, and the police officers — nearly all decent people — who have been obliged to do this evil, and all involved.

UPDATE: Apparently the court has granted him bail (!) and obliged him to return on 22nd April, in nearly 4 months time.  Very bad.

More on the “arrest” of Josh Williamson

I’ve been blogging about the arrest (twice) of preacher Josh Williamson in Perth, Scotland.  He said that he was arrested and was taken to a police station, where he was refused a solicitor.  The police have denied that he was arrested.  He was arrested again last Saturday.  The circumstances of all this seem very unclear, and the police seem disinclined to clarify matters, which raises the worst suspicions.

Today I learn that the Spectator has run an article by Rod Liddle, Josh Williamson is arrested for preaching the Christian gospel in public.

Freedom of speech is alive and well in Scotland, then. Pastor Josh Williamson took the Christian gospel to the streets of Perth last week, before he was arrested by the old bill for a ‘breach of the peace’. Asked why he was being arrested, Plod No 1 said because you’re too loud, pointing to the electrical device the clergyman was carrying. That’s an MP3 recorder, he replied, it’s not an amplifier. Then Plod No 2 claimed it was the content of his sermon, although he could not put his finger on what it was exactly. Hauled down the nick, refused the right of a lawyer, Williamson was eventually released with a verbal caution and the comment from another copper: ‘You seem like a reasonable man, why not just stop preaching?’

I wonder if that would have worked with Christ? The cops also arrested a man who had been enjoying the sermon, for asserting that he had been enjoying the sermon. They have since denied Williamson was arrested at all — but this is a lie, because the pastor recorded the copper saying ‘I am arresting you’, and I’ve heard it.

Emphasis mine.

This all sounds very bad.  But we’re not getting the full story here, I sense.  Why are the police doing this?  This is what makes no sense to me.

People like Josh Williamson have stood in the streets, preaching the gospel (to a handful of supporters, in the main) for at least 50 years.  What is the new urgency that means that the police now need to harass them?

Some may wonder why this blog, which is mainly focused on patristics, is devoting space to this issue.  But it seems rather difficult to focus on the confessors and the martyrs of the past, when I read that new ones are being created on the streets of Britain and the USA right now.

Oh for happier days, when such things were unheard of in a free country.

Update: While looking for an illustration, I happened across this 2012 article about another preacher being arrested (and acquitted) in Inverness:

Clutching his bible and carrying his placard, the former bricklayer is not only a visible feature but very much an audible presence — although his direct approach is not always appreciated by shoppers and passers-by, as he recently discovered.

For the 66-year-old recently found himself in the dock at Inverness Sheriff Court, accused of making offensive remarks and warning people they would “burn in hell” if they did not turn to God.

Having denied the charges, Mr MacDonald, of Lochiel Road, Hilton, was subsequently acquitted of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.

Does modern Scotland, founded by the fiery preacher John Knox, really have no place in it for a man like this?

preacher kenneth macdonald

UPDATE: 25th September.  The Perth Courier has a follow-up story on the man who queried the “arrest that wasn’t an arrest” (according to the police):

Joe McLoughlin, 43, stepped in when police ordered Mr Williamson to stop his sermon because he was “too loud”.

The pair were driven to Perth police station where officers attempted to issue Mr McLoughlin with a £40 fixed penalty notice. But the Letham resident, a full-time carer for his elderly mother, refused to sign the paperwork and plans to take legal action against Police Scotland.

He said: “I did not accept. I refused this ticket. I don’t feel like I was properly charged with anything. They talked about breach of the peace, obstructing justice and section 13 of the public order act. They’ve left me in confusion. I don’t know what I was arrested for.

“I’ve made a statement and it’s in the hands of my solicitors.”

Mr McLoughlin claims officers were heavy-handed when he refused to stop speaking up for the clergyman. He said: “One of them put my hand up my back and frogmarched me to a van. He told me now I am being arrested for ‘making a fool of myself in the f*****g High Street’.”

A police spokesman said: “We can 
confirm that a 43-year-old man was arrested and subsequently issued with a fixed penalty notice following an incident in Perth High Street on September 18.”

Despite his ordeal, Mr McLoughlin was back in the High Street yesterday, bible in hand, preaching to passing shoppers.

He said: “It’s 10 years since I did this and you could say I was inspired by Josh. The thought behind it is, if we don’t use this right we’ll lose it.

“My granddad fought for the right to have freedom of speech and what the police did insults everyone who fought for that freedom. That’s really what is at stake here. I was scared by the police response to Josh. I feel like he was exercising his right to freedom of speech and I was defending his right to freedom of speech.

“It’s given me an incentive to go back out on to the streets and I got quite a positive reaction. A couple of people stopped and spoke to me.”

This is all very bad.  It is horrible to see this level of police incompetence and unprofessionalism, all of it merely to harass some harmless street preachers.

UPDATE: The story now appears in the Daily Express, and the Scotsman.

And yet another (!) street-preacher arrested in the UK

No details as yet.  The preacher was a certain Josh Williamson, of Operation513 ministries.  I learned of the arrest via a tweet from Tony Miano, the US preacher arrested at Wimbledon for the same “offence”.  JoshWilliamsonTweet1

JoshWilliamsonTweet2

The Facebook post:

I was arrested for “Breach of Peace” in Perth, Scotland. I was told the content of my message is illegal. After putting me in the van, and taking me to the station they issued a verbal warning and released me.

They’ve said in future that if they have complaints they’ll go through the process all over again.

No details as yet. I shall write and ask the police for a statement.

This must be the 4th or 5th incident this year.  It still seems astonishing to me, brought up in better days, that the police are systematically engaged in arresting street-preachers.  It would have been unthinkable even 5 years ago.

I think the sooner that one of these cases is brought before a proper court the better.

UPDATE:  Josh Williamson has now given an account of the incident.  This is a strange one.  The police received a “complaint”, apparently; but seem to have been quite unsure what, if any law, had been broken.

[The police officer] told me to stop, as I was breaking the law. I asked him what law I was breaking, and he replied that I was in breach of the peace. When I asked him to explain, he pointed to my mp3 recorder and said I was too loud. I pointed out to the officer that I wasn’t using amplification, but just my natural voice. I then asked him what a reasonable sound level would be. The police officer replied that the noise level isn’t the issue, but rather that a complaint had been made. I tried to reason with the officer, explaining that such argumentation is subjective as anyone can claim anything is too loud.

It was around this time I spoke to another officer who told me that I was being arrested. Again, I asked what law I had broken. It was at this point she told me that the content of my message was illegal. I found this amazing, since I was only preaching the Gospel. She also said people had accused me of swearing at those in the crowd. I pointed out that was a lie, and that I have an mp3 recording of the whole open-air.

After a few more minutes I was placed in the back of a police van. Behind me was the protesting man.

We were driven through the city centre of Perth to the police station. On arrival I was told to sit and wait. The police nicely left my Bible with me, so I was able to read from Psalm 37 as I waited.

They first dealt with the protest man, and then they took me into an interview room. The police began to speak, but I interrupted and asked that the interview be recorded and that I have my legal representative. They refused to allow this. As a result I used my right to silence.

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.

It would seem that the police have some questions to answer here.  None of this seems normal or reasonable conduct by the police.  What on earth is really going on here?

I can only infer that Someone Important complained; someone far more important than a couple of bobbies, and the latter were so scared that they ignored any normal procedure or process.  In which case … who precisely complained?

I have written and enquired myself: but my query has not been acknowledged.

Something smells about all this.  We’re not getting the whole story here, that’s quite obvious to me.

UPDATE:  It seems that Williamson has had difficulties before; that time from Moslem hecklers.  John Knox must be revolving in his grave!

UPDATE (19th September 2013): The police have replied as follows:

“Due a number of  complaints   from members  of the public about the noise being made an individual in Perth’s High Street  yesterday, a man was asked to attend at Perth Police Station where he was spoken  to.  He was issued with a  warning.”

Hmm.  “Asked to attend”?  In a police van?  I will enquire whether Mr Williamson agrees with this statement.

UPDATE: He says that he has a recording of the whole conversation, in which the police state repeatedly that they are arresting him.  The matter is in the hands of Christian Concern.

UPDATE (23rd September 2013): On Saturday 21st September the following appeared on Twitter:

joshwilliamsonagain

FB link here.  The item has now appeared in the local paper, the Courier here:

“I met some friends who were handing out literature and preaching,” said Mr Williamson. “I got up and a handful of minutes later the police came across and stopped me.

“They said they had received a complaint and it was a breach of the peace as I had upset people with what I was saying.”

Mr Williamson said that at the time he was preaching that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save sinners.

He says that the two officers told his friends not to film the incident and following a discussion about his actions he was “manhandled” into a police car and taken to Perth police station and detained for five and a half hours.

He understands the evidence is being evaluated to see if he will face charges. Police Scotland’s Dundee control said they weren’t in a position to comment on Mr Williamson’s version of events.

What is going on?

English clergyman informed against, harassed by police for saying homosexuality is a sin

There was a Gay Power march in the quiet rural city of Norwich in England a month or so ago.  I remember thinking how offensive it probably was — and was intended to be — to the conservative inhabitants of the city. I remember thinking how much it was a triumphalist proclamation of gay power over the people, and how even objecting was now not allowed.

It seems that one courageous man did object, and, being a free-born Englishman, said so.  An article in the Spectator reports the horrifying story:

You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.

Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’.

The officer politely offers you a choice: you can either admit your guilt there and then, accepting an on-the-spot fine of £90. Or you can contest the allegation, provide a signed statement in your defence, after which it will be for a senior police officer to decide whether or not to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

It is not clear at this stage upon what basis the police have judged the tracts to be ‘homophobic’. But it is made crystal clear that you may have committed a homophobic crime, having communicated by electronic means something likely to annoy or cause offence. You are the subject of a criminal investigation.

This was the scenario which confronted the Revd Dr Alan Clifford, Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church, the weekend before last. In theory, he could have declined the fine and refused to provide a statement, but Dr Clifford is a helpful and accommodating sort of chap. So, at 5.45pm on 17 August 2013, instead of settling down in front of the telly, he set about responding to a series of probing questions.  ….

Dr Clifford says he was not permitted to make a copy of his statement, so the precise details of his interrogation may not be exactly as recounted.

These kinds of tactics belong to the police state, and are outrageous.

But he recalls being asked why he had sent the e-mail in the first place – whether it was purposely to annoy or cause offence to the recipient(s). He responded: ‘No. I was reporting to the gay-pride people our Christian complaint against the public display of their homosexual propaganda, which we find offensive.’

In the hierarchy of competing rights, of course, offence is a one-way chase. He was then asked if he was aware that he’d actually committed a homophobic offence as defined by the official police leaflet which the officer then presented to him. It apparently defined such an offence as ‘any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person’.

The article continues in the same depressing vein; a policeman demanding to know, not what a clergyman has done, but what he thinks.

[The police] had, it seems, already determined Dr Clifford’s guilt on the basis of a complaint by someone at Norwich Pride, hence the immediate offer of a £90 fine to make it all go away. This is speed-camera homophobia: capture an image of the incident; pay a reduced fixed penalty now; or dare to defend yourself in protracted court proceedings which might result in a greater fine and/or even a custodial sentence.

A decision has now, in fact, been taken: a senior police officer at the Norfolk Constabulary has got a whiff of homophobia under his nostrils, and the case has been referred to the CPS. The Revd Dr Alan Clifford, BA, MLitt, PhD, Pastor of Norwich Reformed Church, now awaits a decision on whether he will indeed be prosecuted.

I have read these tracts, and there isn’t a word of hate in them.

I wonder where we might obtain copies of these tracts?

I have written to Norfolk Police and enquired simply whether the article is correct.  I encourage others to do likewise.  Evil loves darkness, and the bully demands that his victim says nothing.  It costs nothing to send a polite email of enquiry, and to thereby remind them that their actions — immoral, certainly, and probably illegal under the Human Rights Act — are visible to the world.

I have also written to “Norwich Pride” to enquire what precisely were the phrases that were so “extreme” that they felt the police had to be involved.

I will let you know what either say.

UPDATE: 3rd September 2013.  Lots of auto-response emails from the police.  No substance yet.  Response from the press office at “Norwich Pride”: “Sorry, we are not forwarding the email.”  Of course I didn’t ask them to; only to tell me specifically what phrases were so “extreme” that the police had to be involved.

Links on the Wimbledon preacher arrest

The BBC has chosen to ignore the story of how a street preacher was sworn at by a woman and then arrested, for daring to mention homosexuality among a number of sins (see here and here and here).  Others have not. Cranmer broke the story, and the Daily Telegraph ran with it.  A few more links.

The Huffington Post (UK) gives couple more details, which actually sound even more sinister:

According to the Christian Legal Centre which is representing Miano, he was offered a £90 fine to secure his release, but after being interviewed with a solicitor present, the police told him they would seek prosecution because he said he believed his remarks were “100%” acceptable” and that he planned to say them again.

This explains, then, why they kept him in a cell for seven hours.  They were hoping to get him to admit the “offence” and pay a fine, for his temerity.

Cranmer’s Curate makes the point that a tough ex-police-officer like Miano was far better equipped to push back at such nonsense than most of us would be.

There are also stories at Opposing Views, Christian Today, Christian Post, The Christian Institute, Canada Free Press, Charisma News, Cross Map, and others.

On the other hand we have this from Pink News, Homophobic street preacher arrested in London, and Gay Star News, Wimbledon tennis preacher arrested for gay hate.  The comments in both are pretty vile.

UPDATE, 6th July 2013: Not part of the same story … or may be it is: Christian preachers brutally beaten at Gay Pride Festival.

Police statement on arrest of street preacher in Wimbledon

Further to this and this, I have now received confirmation of the basic details of the story from the police at Wimbledon.  My enquiry was as follows:

I read online a report that the police arrested a street preacher and held him for seven hours while quizzing him on his beliefs.  According to the report the reason given was that, in preaching about sin (which he was against), he mentioned homosexuality.  The report and a video may be found at the Archbishop Cranmer site.

May I ask whether the report is correct?  Is there a press release on this incident?

I received the following answer:

Police were called to Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19, at approximately 16.30hrs on Monday, 1 July, following reports of a man speaking through a public address system who was alleged to have made homophobic comments.

Officers attended and arrested the man, aged 49, on suspicion of offences under the Public Order Act.

He was taken to a south-west London police station and spoken to by officers before being released with no further action later the same day.

This more or less confirms all the statements made by the victim Tony Miano.

UPDATE: Cranmer has now posted the full transcript of the police interrogation here, which began four hours after his arrest, at eight minutes past nine at night, and concluded half an hour later.  In one respect it doesn’t quite confirm what Miano said, but, quite frankly, considering that he was grilled without having a record himself around 14 hours after he got up, we can forgive the lapse of memory.

The transcript reads like something out of the 17th century.  There is no question of the accused having done anything; it is what he thinks that is being questioned.  And this, in a free state, is unacceptable.

More on the arrest of the street preacher at Wimbledon

Further to yesterday’s post:

I learn from the comments at the Cranmer blog that the incident took place on Monday 1st July.

I have had no reply to my enquiry to Wimbledon Police Station.

The Daily Telegraph has today run the story, Christian arrested for calling homosexuality a ‘sin’.

A Christian street preacher has been arrested and questioned about his beliefs after saying that “fornication” and homosexuality are a sin.

Tony Miano, a retired police officer from the US, was held for almost seven hours, forced to give finger prints and a DNA sample and questioned about his beliefs on sin.

Mr Miano, who served as a Deputy Sherriff in Los Angeles County, was arrested under the controversial clause of the Public Order Act, recently amended by the House of Lords, which bans “insulting” words or behaviour.

In a video placed on YouTube he can be seen debating with two Metropolitan Police officers about whether the amendment to the law had come into force yet.

It came after a woman complained that the sermon he preached a sermon in busy street in Wimbledon, south west London, on Monday afternoon, about “lust” and “sexual immorality”, was homophobic.

Taking as his text a passage from Thessalonians, he listed homosexuality alongside other “evil” sexual temptations as being against “God’s law”.

He can be heard saying: “My friends, the reality is, we are all going to stand before God to give account for our lives.

“And whether our sin is sexual in nature or not, if we have violated his law in any way – whether it is homosexuality, whether it is refusing to abstain from evil in the heterosexual community and we are lusting after people we are indulging in fornication, but even beyond that if we have so much as told one lie – God sees us as a violator of his law, God does not see us as good.”

He said that during his time at the police station he was questioned about his beliefs.

“He asked me, among other things, whether I believed homosexuality was a sin,” he explained.

“He also asked me: ‘If a homosexual person came to you and was hungry, would you give him something to eat?’

“It was unnerving to be questioned about my Christian beliefs and I was made to feel that my thoughts could be held against me.

“The two final questions were: ‘Do you believe you are 100 per cent right in what you did today?’, I answered yes, and “If you were to go back there tomorrow, would you do the same thing again?” to which I also answered yes.”

He was eventually released without charge around midnight.

There could be no charge, of course, for he had done nothing wrong.  The “arrest”, and the deliberately prolonged incarceration and “questioning” were merely harassment, intended to intimidate.  The phrase “the process is the punishment” describes what happened here; drag someone through the system in order to stop them doing something which is entirely legal.  Even if they are found innocent, just being accused and tried — at deliberately elaborate length — is a shattering experience for normal, innocent people.

I gather that Tony Miano has sought legal advice.  I hope that the Metropolitan Police are forced to pay a large sum in damages.  I also would hope that whoever was responsible for this is discharged from the force.

Street preacher arrested at Wimbledon, held for seven hours

There is a worrying report at the Cranmer blog this evening.  It is good that they have highlighted this, because it seems to have gone otherwise unreported.

Mr Miano has recently been out preaching in Wimbledon. He very much enjoys biblical evangelism, speaking about spiritual growth, personal holiness and the person and work of Jesus Christ. On Monday, his theme was sexual immorality – all forms (1Thess 4:1-12). He talked about sin – heterosexual and homosexual – without discrimination. As he was preaching, a lady heard him say that homosexuality was a sin, and promptly summoned the police, who duly arrived.

Mr Miano was then arrested for violating Section 5 of the Public Order Act: he was accused of using homophobic speech likely to cause anxiety, distress, alarm or insult.

He was escorted to Wimbledon police station, where he was photographed, finger-printed and had a DNA sample taken. He was then incarcerated in a cell for seven hours.

And he was interrogated about his faith in Jesus Christ.

He was asked if he believed homosexuality was a sin. He was asked from which portion of the Bible he was preaching. Incredibly, he was asked whether, if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to him, he would give them something to eat.

He was then informed that there was sufficient evidence from his responses to forward his case to the CPS, and that the judge could order him to remain in the country for 4-5 months while his case came to trial.

This story reads like something out of the Keston College annals of religious persecution in Russia.  The preacher … the informer … the bullying police-officers … the jeers at religion.

Of course we don’t blame the police for doing what they are told.  The rulers of Britain have made this happen, and have ensured that the police will do this when the situation arises.   The judges have likewise been screened to ensure that they too will toe the line.

These kinds of stories are troubling because each such incident sends a direct message to Christians: you are not wanted, and we will arrest you if you share your faith.  What kind of country directs that message at a harmless minority?

However I have emailed Wimbledon police and asked for a statement.  It is always wise to check one’s facts.

In the mean time, may I suggest that Christian readers remember to pray for both the informer, and the policemen involved, as well as the preacher and the blog that reported it.

UPDATE: I find a curiously similar story from 2010. Preacher Dale McAlpine was arrested under similar circumstances, and was committed for trial in September.  But on May 1 the Mail on Sunday reported the story, echoed by the Daily Telegraph the next day.  Two weeks later the BBC reported that the charge against him had been dropped.  On December 18 2010 the Daily Mail reported that the police paid out 7,000 GBP plus legal costs, and refers to “new guidelines” issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, entitled “Keeping the peace”.  Perhaps they should issue a new booklet, and address it to Met Police.  They might entitle it “Taking the peace”.

Is Christianity actually legal in modern Britain, for practical purposes?

Something really horrible is happening in the United Kingdom.   The mass media are nearly silent.  No politician dares do more than mumble a few hesitant queries.  When I look at my TV, at my newspaper, I see mostly silence.  Bloggers are silent, with the exception of the mighty Cranmer here and here.

The story is simple.  A Christian couple, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, let out rooms in their home for “Bed and Breakfast” accomodation overnight, which they advertise under the name of the “Chymorvah private hotel” in Penzance in Cornwall.  B&B’s are not as popular as they were, but many older people find it a useful way to supplement a meagre income.  They advertised, but indicated that unmarried couples would not be accepted for double rooms.  They were targeted by a gay pressure group, Stonewall, which wrote to them, as if it was a government body, and ‘warned’ them to desist.  When they failed to do so, it sent two sodomites as agents provocateurs.  These made a booking, without indicating that they were a gay couple, and turned up hoping to be turned away.  In fact they were offered two rooms, but instead scampered off and denounced the Christians to the police.  The couple were duly prosecuted under the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations), by Stonewall, funded by the government quango the Equalities Commission.  The couple, being old and poor, could not afford to defend themselves but a small Christian charity called the Christian Institute funded the defence. 

They were convicted.  The judge jeered at them as “out of touch”, or so I am told, in phrases that might have come straight from the crooked and bullying trials of the Restoration period, and fined them savagely.   The atheist British Humanist Association shrieked with triumph, of course — the idea that atheists favour liberty of conscience is also “out of date”, it seems.   The establishment media dutifully followed the party line.  The victims have appealed, of course, but since the establishment chooses the judges, and demands that they favour “diversity” — i.e. enforce political correctness — they are unlikely to win.  Meanwhile, I learn from Cranmer, that loads of gays have been trying to book accomodation at that B&B, not to support the victims, but in order to drag them into court again and again until they go bankrupt. 

This is a horrible story.  It’s like reading something from Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany.  It’s sickening in its contempt for others, its hatred of right, its cynical choice of the weak and poor as victims. 

You can find plenty of “comment” online “justifying” this evil.  But the excuses for interfering with this poor old couple dishonour those making them.  Most of them sound like the sort of self-excusing rhetoric that Goering trotted out at that hideous meeting after Krystallnacht, as “justification” for stealing the insurance payouts.  The basic moral principle — do not do to others what you would not like done to you — is violated again and again.

Curiously, I myself have a story to tell, although I have not been involved.  But I happened to notice an article Should Christian B&Bs accept gay couples on the BBC website (25th Jan. 2011).  Leaving aside the question — surely in a free country, Christians should decide for themselves! — I happened to look at the “comments”: “Below is a selection of your comments”.

To my surprise, not a single comment of those chosen supported the B&B owners.  Each and every one attacked them.  One even pretended to be from a “conservative Christian” — and looked to me as if it had pretty clearly been faked by the editorial staff.

The BBC has a statutory duty of balance.  So I wrote and complained:

The article follows up the case: ” Should Christian hoteliers be forced, by law, to offer hospitality to a gay couple?”  The “selection of comments” posted is 100% in favour of the gays’ rights overriding those of the Christians.

In view of the relative numbers of each in our society, it seems incredible to me that this can possibly reflect either the number of comments made, or public opinion in general. It’s bias, in short.

In view of the bias, I suggest that it would be best to reupload the article minus all comments, with an apology to the public for this behaviour added to the end of the article. The name of the editor who did this should also appear in the apology.

It doesn’t matter what the issue discussed is, or what view we hold on it. What we expect, surely, is honest reporting. This cannot be such.

I got back an anonymous email:

Thank you for your message. The comments posted below the article are a representative sample of the opinions expressed by the many respondents, with nuanced views on the rights of the respective parties.
 
Bruno Beloff, for instance, points out that both the gay couple and the Christian hoteliers “gain by protecting each other’s rights”. Rachel says “it seems only fair that a B&B can state this in their terms and conditions, and it not be seen as infringing upon people’s rights”. And Karen adds that “The guesthouse owners have been judged unfairly”.
 
Several point out that they themselves are Christians, such as Joe, who says: “I disapprove of same sex relationships. If put in the same situation, I’d let them share the bed, and leave it to God to decide if it is right or wrong.”

Readers can look at the comments for themselves and see that not one of them backed the victims.  They can form their opinion about this response.  What honest man would respond like that?   But the BBC too, is part of the establishment.

What is happening here?  It can be summarised simply, as far as I can see: that, with the backing of the judicial system and the establishment, organised gay groups are running a campaign to force Christians out of public life and out of business.  It sounds extraordinary when you say it like that, but what else can it mean? 

It is probably relevant that last year all the Catholic adoption agencies in Britain were forced to close, because they would not undertake to place children with “gay couples”.  Effectively, in modern Britain, Christians cannot run adoption agencies, nor run B&B’s.  That is the law, it seems.  What other businesses will it be found to be illegal for Christians to run next, I wonder? 

Like Jews in medieval Europe, Christians in modern Britain are not allowed to run certain types of business unless they violate their religion.  That’s the law, we are told. 

Isn’t that incredible?

The answer to the question with which I started this post, unbelievably, is “About as legal as it was in Soviet Russia.”  That is, if this really is good law.

The tool used is a law which was passed in 2007.  The then Labour government, which had already passed a series of pro-gay laws, enacted an ‘Equality Act’ known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations.  These made it an offence to “discriminate” against gays.  They were drawn very widely, in order to affect as many people as possible, and equipped with savage penalties. 

This law, like most of the rest, was not a random thing.  Gay actor Ian McKellen openly boasted about a meeting he had with Tony Blair, 3 months before the latter’s election in 1997:

I reeled off Stonewall’s demands, and he nodded, wrote them down and put a tick by them all. Then he said we will do all that.

The scope of this law was so great, and their drafting so intentionally ambiguous, as to stir the torpid mainstream churches to protest, even archbishops, but in vain.  Nor was this the limit of their ambitions: a law criminalising “incitement to religious hatred” which would have destroyed free speech was neutered by a campaign led by stand-up comedians, or it too would have been used against Christians who dared to criticise Islam. One minister boasted that the churches would have to hire lawyers — in a country where no-one can afford to do so.

The law is passed, and the stormtroopers are knocking on the doors.  No doubt there is a list, a plan for all this.  I wonder where bloggers come in that list?  Soon, I would guess, soon.

And the silence is deafening.  Cranmer has spoken up, but I haven’t seen another blogger express any criticism of this appalling business.  No doubt many are too scared.  Tory bloggers fear intimidation, or being accused of “tainting the brand” — as if there was any point to politics when you can’t criticise your foes.  Those who do criticise these evil-doers do indeed risk losing their careers, their jobs, their livelihoods, risk being reduced to beggary.  No campaign of hate is too mean to be directed against those who say The Thing That Cannot Be Said.

I hate having to write this piece.  This blog is not about politics.  But will it be said that “when they came for the Christians who ran hotels, I said nothing because I did not run a hotel”?  Not here it won’t.    It doesn’t matter that it is gays who are running this fascist campaign.  It would be wrong whoever did it, and whoever the victims were.   It is a sick, evil business.

Let us pray for the victims, that God may give them grace, and financial and other support, and deliver them.  Let us also pray that Christians awake, and prepare for persecution.   And let us also pray for the persecutors, that God may have mercy on them too.  For, of course, no good end, even for themselves, is served by such evil.

UPDATE: See also eChurch Christian blog

UPDATE: I note that some of the apologists for this evil try to claim “well other Christians think it’s OK”.   The “other Christians” turn out to be heretics, of course, and the ploy is intended merely to confuse Christian attempts to defend themselves.  The same tactic was used by the KGB when abusing Russian Christians.

UPDATE (28/1/11): The Daily Mail highlights continuing harassment of the Bull’s here.

Standing up for their beliefs has already brought them a hefty fine, a court battle and a string of abusive phone calls.

Now it could cost Christian hoteliers Peter and Hazelmary Bull their business as tormentors take to the internet to scare off customers.

They are apparently posting bogus reviews on travel websites to take revenge for the pair’s stance on gay couples.

The messages claim the hotel is dirty, unfriendly and infested with cockroaches – with one so-called reviewer even comparing it with a Thai prison cell.

The comments were exposed as lies after Mrs Bull, 66, found those who posted them claimed to have stayed in the winter – when the hotel was closed. …

By their fruits ye shall know them.  And sadly even Cranmer has put out a post “it’s not for the believer to impose his morality on the unbeliever”, making the classic debating error of conceding to the enemy what should not be conceded for temporary advantage. 

UPDATE: Cranmer’s Curate faces up to the next question — will Christian bloggers have to risk jail in order to preach against vice?  And if so how?

if the UK segues into a politically correct dictatorship and it becomes illegal for Christian bloggers to denounce false religion, false teaching, idolatry and immorality in the robust way in which the New Testament does, what then? …

How would Christian pirate blogging work out in practice? Presumably it would not be necessary to resort to blogging from ships a la pirate radio in the 1960s or would it?

Furthermore, is it worth risking jail for the sake of blogging? Should Christians engage in illegal internet activity whether as writers or readers?

The answer, of course, is to ask God what we should do.

Curious Presbyterian gives the business its real name: “the gay sting against Christian Bed & Breakfast owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull” and reproduces remarks by Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday:

As I suspected they would, the Christian hotel owners, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, came off worse in their courtroom struggle against Politically Correct Britain.

The law believes such people have no right to follow their own morals, except in private.  The law also now states that homosexual partnerships are equal to heterosexual marriage, which New Labour tried to pretend was not the case.

Perhaps most importantly, the homosexual couple had their action paid for by us.  Britain’s embryonic Thought Police, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, provided the money on your behalf and mine, whether we like it or not.

This is not the end of the revolution we are passing through.  By the time it is finished, I will not be allowed to write or say this.  Don’t believe me?  Wait and see.

Curious Presbyterian is monitoring the stories, and, my, aren’t there a lot of them!  All these from the last few days:

Well done, that man.