UNITED KINGDOM: by Hal G.P. ColebatchNews Weekly
Christian arrested in Britain for quoting Bible, wins damages
, May 10, 2014
A British evangelical street preacher, John Craven, 57, was preaching in Manchester in 2011, when two boys approached him and asked him his views on homosexuality.
Jamie Murray, interrogated
by Lancashire police for
displaying Bible verses in his café.
He replied by quoting the Bible (Revelation 21:8), which suggests unrepentant homosexuals are among those who face uncomfortable prospects in the next world. He added: “Whilst God hates sin, He loves the sinner.” He said the pair then began to kiss in front of him and act out sexual acts.
The two boys then complained to a mounted police constable, Alistair McKittrick of the Greater Manchester Police, that Mr Craven’s “insulting” comments had caused them “harassment and distress”. Instead of telling them to grow up, PC McKittrick was said to have “grabbed” Mr Craven roughly by the arm and detained him under Section 43 of the Public Order Act.
He was kept in a police cell alone for 19 hours. For the first 15 hours he was denied food, water and medication, which he needed for rheumatoid arthritis. He said that he was eventually given a bowl of cereal and a microwave meal after a friend complained about his treatment.
He was fingerprinted, had to give a sample of his DNA and was told he was being investigated for allegedly using insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress — which could have led to a six-month jail sentence.
Two days later, however, police told him there would be no charges and no further action.
Now Mr Craven has been awarded a hefty UK£13,000 pounds damages for wrongful arrest, plus UK£50,000 pounds legal costs, to be borne by the police. The police settled the matter out of court (Daily Mail, UK, March 31, 2014).
The Christian Institute, which supported Mr Craven’s action against the police, called the case one of the worst instances of infringement of religious liberty it had ever heard of, and stated: “Nobody should face 19 hours in custody for answering a question about their religious beliefs.”
That figure of 19 hours is significant: this would not have been the work of a single over-zealous or power-intoxicated policeman. At least two shifts at the police lock-up would have to had to be involved.
How can police who behave in this manner expect the trust and co-operation of the public? These and other scandals seem a gross departure from the traditions which once made the British police ethos the envy of the world. These days they are sardonically referred to as the military wing of the Guardian, now a far-left newspaper.
Though the Manchester Police issued a statement admitting fault, there was no undertaking that there would be reform or improvement.
There are several points to be made here:
First, this and a number of comparable cases suggest that Christianity in Britain is being persecuted by the forces of political correctness to an unprecedented degree, even though the actual origin of this persecution is hard to identify.
In 2011, Jamie Murray, 31, the Christian owner of the Salt and Light Café in the seaside town of Blackpool, was threatened with arrest after a customer complained to police that a rolling display of Scripture in the café was inciting hatred against homosexuals.
Two uniformed police officers arrived unannounced at the café at lunchtime (the café’s busiest time), questioned Mr Murray for almost an hour and warned him he was breaching the Public Order Act 1986 (Daily Mail, UK, September 25, 2011).
Mr Murray said afterwards: “I couldn’t believe the police were saying I can’t display the Bible. The officers were not very polite, in fact they were quite aggressive. It felt like an interrogation.
“I said ‘surely it isn’t a crime to show the Bible?’ But they said they had checked with their sergeant and insulting words are a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act. I was shocked.
“I’m not here to insult or offend anyone, but the Bible is the Bible.
“We’re always being told that we’re a tolerant and diverse nation. Yet the very thing that gave us those values – Christianity – is being sidelined.”
In the same year, an official of the Trafford Housing Trust in Greater Manchester, Adrian Smith, 54, also a Christian, was demoted with a 40 per cent pay-cut after he posted on his private Facebook page a moderate and mainstream view that same-sex weddings in church were “an equality too far” (Daily Mail, UK, October 23, 2011).
These are by no means atypical instances of officially-sanctioned persecution of Christians in contemporary Britain.
Last century Winston Churchill loved to reflect on how “the English-speaking peoples” had slowly and painfully, and almost alone, given birth in the world to the priceless values of freedom of expression, even for unpopular and unfashionable opinions, and of vexed questions of religious toleration, and had shed blood to uphold them.
Today, Britain’s time-honoured freedoms are being submerged under a rising tide of tyrannical political correctness, which the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government of David Cameron could stop at once if it cared for these values.
However, political correctness is something many members of the government are apparently condoning if not positively encouraging.
This is paralleled by what appears to be happening in the United States, particularly in the U.S. armed forces, where atheist organisations are launching all manner of attacks on Christian symbolism, and even on U.S. servicemen who express Christian beliefs and values.
There have also been reports of similar disturbing developments in Australia’s armed forces.
Second, laws of this nature place a great burden on police, since there are no real guidelines as to whether expressions of opinion constitute an offence at law or not.
Third, they open the way not only for an attack on free speech, but for the re-introduction of literary and artistic censorship, against which progressives once campaigned so passionately, and for the re-writing of history.
Fourth, one wonders what would have happened to English street-preacher John Craven if he had not had the support of the Christian Institute.
Fifth, and more optimistically, the final outcome of the case — the awarding of damages to Mr Craven over his arrest — shows that the rule of law and traditional notions of liberty are not dead in Britain. It is still possible for the victims of political correctness to fight back and win.
Hal G.P. Colebatch, PhD, is a Perth author and lawyer.
“Video: Police ban Bible from Christian café”, The Christian Institute (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK), September 24, 2011.
Ross Slater and Jonathan Petre, “Police tell cafe owner: Stop showing Bible DVDs, or we will have to arrest you”, Daily Mail (UK), September 25, 2011.
“MPs speak out on Christian café case”, The Christian Institute, October 25, 2011.
“Christian hit with 40% pay cut over Facebook comments”, The Christian Institute, October 22, 2011.
Jonathan Petre, “Demoted for not backing gay marriage: housing manager’s pay slashed for criticising new law on Facebook”, Daily Mail, October 23, 2011.
“Street preacher held by Police for 19 hours gets £13,000”, The Christian Institute, March 31, 2014.
Jaya Narain, “Preacher arrested for quoting from the Bible is awarded £13,000: Held for 19 hours after gay teens said he upset them”, Daily Mail, March 31, 2014.