A free speech victory

Freedom of speech for those of us who are not part of powerful pressure groups with armies of lawyers and/or rioters at their call has become a somewhat fragile thing in recent years.  The police have felt no option but to enforce laws designed to chill the expression of various opinions. 

But there good news today — one such evil has been struck down by a court in the UK.  The Daily Mail reports:

Police have been ordered to pay compensation to a Christian street preacher who was hauled off in handcuffs for saying that gays will go to hell.

A judge condemned the arrest of Anthony Rollins, who quoted the King James Bible on the subject of the ‘effeminate’ as he preached in Birmingham.

Mr Rollins was handcuffed and then held in a cell for nearly four hours after a passer-by dialled 999 and complained that his language was ‘hugely offensive’  …

Mr Rollins has been speaking on the city’s streets as a member of a Christian mission for 12 years. In June 2008 he was handing out leaflets in the city centre and quoting passages from the King James Bible – the Authorised Version which reaches its 400th anniversary next year – that refer to homosexuality. …

Judge Ashworth’s ruling was dismissive of evidence given by the onlooker who called police and who said he had been offended by the preaching.

He said of John Edwards: ‘I was not impressed by him as a witness. He struck me as a man full of his own self-importance who in the witness box relished the attention and greatly embellished his evidence.’

The ruling was praised by the Christian Institute, the think tank which backed Mr Rollins’s court claim. Spokesman Mike Judge said: ‘Street preachers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are part of our Christian heritage.

It is good news indeed.  The sandwichboard man with his sign “Prepare to meet thy God” is a quaint figure, but surely a harmless one.  Let him preach his message to those who wish to listen without interference from those desperate to be “offended”, ready to call the police, and “full of their own self-importance”. 

UPDATE: A better report than the Daily Mail article is at the Christian Institute site, and also at Virtue Online.  The court took a much more negative view of the case, and of the police actions, it seems, than the Daily Mail indicates.

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