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.