by Hilary White
BIRMINGHAM, December 14, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – West Midlands police have been ordered by a court to pay an Evangelical street preacher from Birmingham who preached that homosexuality is immoral over £4000 plus legal expenses for wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Anthony Rollins, a Christian preacher who suffers from autism, was arrested while he was preaching in Birmingham city centre. Rollins was charged with a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, a statute that has come under criticism for restricting freedom of speech.
The court heard that on June 24, Rollins was preaching using the King James Bible and expressed his Christian belief that homosexual conduct is morally wrong. The Christian Institute, which represented Mr. Rollins, reports that a member of the public, John Edwards, objected to the message, shouting “homophobic bigot” before calling 999 and asking for the police.
Rollins was arrested on the spot with no further inquiry by police. He was detained for three hours and never interviewed for his version of events. The court also ruled that Police Constable Adrian Bill committed assault and battery against Mr. Rollins when he handcuffed him unnecessarily.
Lance Ashworth QC, the judge in the case, criticized the arresting officer, saying that he had made the arrest “as a matter of routine without any thought being given to Mr. Rollins’ Convention Rights [to free speech and religious liberty].”
Another Evangelical street preacher who was arrested earlier this year for remarks he made about homosexual activity, commented that Britain is getting to be a place where the freedom to express honestly held religious opinions is being trampled. In April, Dale Mcalpine of Cumbria was arrested and charged with using “insulting” words contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act, a criminal offense.
Mcalpine is calling for concerned citizens to contact their MPs and ask that the term “insulting” be removed from the Act, or others will risk being arrested for expressing their religious beliefs in public.
Although the charges were dropped, Mcalpine is suing the arresting officer and the Chief Constable of Cumbria Police for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and unlawful interference with his right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
“I was charged with a crime, and released on the condition that I don’t preach in a public place, not even in my church,” Mcalpine said.
The tradition of street preaching in Britain goes back to the 17th century, and has until recently been looked upon with broad tolerance by authorities. In the 18th century, when the Methodist movement was banished from mainstream Anglican churches, its adherents, including founder John Wesley, took to the streets to promote their ideas.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said, “Street preachers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is part of our Christian heritage. Most people just walk on by and ignore it. The police have no business arresting Christians for quoting the Bible.
“Christians are tired of being put on trial for their beliefs. There is clearly a problem with the Public Order Act and it needs fixing,” Judge added.
Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the civil rights group Justice, and The Christian Institute have called for Section 5 of the Public Order Act to be amended so that it cannot be misused to interfere with free speech.