Steve Weatherbe

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British Catholic monk expects prison for promoting Christian teaching on homosexuality: interview

Steve Weatherbe
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Brother Damon Kelly Courtesy of the Black Hermits

A British hermit who only leaves his hermitage to distribute pamphlets promoting Christian teachings on homosexuality and abortion expects to be imprisoned for breaking the terms of his bail and continuing to confront his country’s “culture of death.”

“At first I agreed to do no more leafleting,” Brother Damon Kelly, 53, told LifeSiteNews. “But I’ve wrestled with it, I’ve sought spiritual counsel. And I’ve decided I have to obey God’s law and not the State’s law. Which will land you in a lot of trouble.”

Brother Damon is the leader of a trio of Catholics called the Black Hermits who are under personal vows to their local bishop and based in Corby, Northamptonshire.

The hermit also told LifeSiteNews he’s decided he cannot follow the advice of his lawyer, Michael Phillips, who has told him that if he confines himself to giving out his material on the street, he’d be protected by the right to free speech.

“Brother Damon, though he does wonderful work, needs to rein it in,” Phillips told LifeSiteNews. “As long as he is just handing out material on the street he is going to be okay. But he has on occasion put it through mailboxes.” When he does that, the lawyer said, “It is 100 percent easier for Crown to make a case” against him under the Public Order Act.

“The problem with that,” Brother Damon said, “is that I can distribute 1,300 leaflets via mail slots and boxes in just two hours. I could only give out 200 in the same time on the street.”  The hermit has more than a 1,000 pamphlets with a Christmas theme and he believes God is calling him to distribute them in a timely fashion—by mailboxes.

Brother Damon has been arrested nine times by police without ever being charged. But six times, including last week in Cambridge, he has been “bailed”--assigned a date to return to the police station and, based on his adherence to the terms of his bail, either have it removed or be charged with disturbing the peace. So far, Brother Damon has obeyed the bail conditions and ceased leafleting in five different counties. Several bails have expired and several are still in force.

The problem with the Cambridge bail condition imposed on December 8 was that it was far broader than his previous ones. “It said no more leafleting anywhere in Britain,”  said Brother Damon—not until the bail expires on January 20.

Leafleting in breach of his bail makes it likely he will be charged and jailed pending trial, he believes. 

Police are arresting Christians “more and more all the time” for offences against public order, or what used to be called disturbing the peace, said Andrea Williams, executive director of the Christian Legal Centre in London. “It is public pressure and the police feel a responsibility to protect diversity, but they do not know what is protected by free speech in public space. There have been arrests and people spending the night in jail.” But whenever a case has made it to trial, the centre has won an acquittal, she says.

So far Britain’s judges have understood free speech better than the police. “We’ve had 100 percent success with our cases involving street preachers and anti-abortion protesters,” Williams said.  “It’s absolutely vital there is free speech.”

Phillips agreed. His cases disappear with a single visit to the police station to explain that free speech means “you have a right to be offensive. The police, along with most of the public, honestly believe that if anyone is offended, it is a crime.”

The trouble is that before the police realize the truth, “they have already abused their power, they have pushed people around who don’t know their rights.”

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The root cause for the increase of arrests for free speech is Britain’s heightened sensitivity to “diversity,” according to Williams and Phillips. “The police are indoctrinated with diversity,” said Phillips. “You go to a police station and there are rainbow flags in the window and posters for LGBTQ Week on the walls.”

So Brother Damon was sure to draw complaints and police interest with a pamphlet that called homosexuality is “a sin, and therefore immoral,” and linked it to pedophilia. It goes on to state that homosexuality is not “inborn” but a “neurosis” produced by a dysfunctional family of origin. Another pamphlet calls abortion “homicide” and states that anyone who performs an abortion “is guilty of murder.”

The Christmas leaflet, “Christmas, Christ and Antichrist,” has a broader theme. Brother Damon said, “I wanted to show that the world today is the same as the world Christ was born into 2,000 years ago. Innocents are still being slaughtered.” It cites not only abortion and homosexual assaults on children, but Muslim attacks on Christians in the Middle East and Africa, and calls the British and American military “gangsters,” claiming they have murdered “700,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians” in the Iraq War.

Following up on complaints about the Christmas pamphlets from householders, Cambridgeshire police at first said “the content, context and actions of the male concerned fall short of any criminality” even though it would “in many cases offend, irritate, shock or disturb.” At this point they did not know Brother Damon’s identity, though they had tracked his progress through several Cambridgeshire towns. 

Then Brother Damon wrote PinkNews a letter thanking them for reporting on his pamphleting campaign, identifying himself, and insisting there was no homophobic content. His letter concluded with the message: “I wouldn’t be a good monk if I didn’t exhort you to repentance and conversion to Christ. I have no hatred for ‘Gays’ as individuals, but as a political movement you are Antichrist and the Devil’s disciples, and the Lord has told me to oppose you.”

His arrest followed shortly, and, after a few hours in the cells, he was released upon the condition he do no more leafleting, anywhere, until January 20.

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