DUNDEE, Scotland, January 29, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Tony Miano, an American evangelical street preacher and former policeman, must be getting used to being arrested for his beliefs in Britain. Miano was arrested January 8th, in Dundee, Scotland, and remanded in custody to appear before Dundee Sheriff Court the next day. Charged with a public order offence and held for nearly 30 hours, Miano was allowed to return to the US on the condition that he returns to the court in April.
A spokesman for the legal advocacy group Christian Concern told LifeSiteNews.com that the situation of street preachers being arrested is getting out of hand, with police making what are, essentially, arbitrary arrests.
Garry Selfridge, spokesman for Christian Concern said that the Dundee court “is being a little pathetic and backward” in allowing the proceedings to move forward.
“There is an overall blanket of political correctness that cloaks the whole establishment in the UK, so the police are not well advised or well trained to deal with such situations,” he said.
He was emphatic that Mr. Miano had not preached against particular people or about the nature of the homosexual inclination, “being gay,” but only against “homosexual activity.” But in modern Britain, he added, the mere mention that homosexual practice might be regarded in the Bible as sinful is now regarded as reason enough for police to make an arrest.
Following a centuries-old custom among British evangelicals, Miano was on a preaching tour of Scotland in early January and was speaking in the central shopping area of Dundee, when he was arrested for causing a “disturbance”.
Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, who was one of the three preachers present that day, said, “Tony wasn’t focusing 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 said Mr. Miano was approached by a local town warden who admitted that he was not committing any offence, but asked him to move on in order to avoid a disturbance. At the same moment, however, the woman who had shouted “appeared to be calling the police.”
According to his fellow-preachers, Mr. Miano had moved on from reference to lying and stealing to questions about sexual sin. He mentioned adultery, promiscuity and homosexual activity. At which point a woman in the crowd began “screaming” at him, accusing him of “hate” and saying that she had a son who is “gay”.
Miano and the other preachers, having finished for the day, were packing up to leave when two police officers arrived, a man and a woman, and interviewed the woman.
Williamson said that when the woman “lunged” for the camera, the officers arrested Mr. Miano without speaking to him first.
Police, Williamson said, only interviewed the woman complainant in the crowd and not the preachers, and did not speak to Miano except to immediately charge him with an offence against public order and arrest him.
Miano’s latest run-in with police follows his experience last summer when he was detained by London police for seven hours for the same activity. As an experienced former policeman who has worked with gangs and drug enforcement in Los Angeles, Miano was familiar with police procedures and spent his time in jail calmly, praying and singing hymns. He had been “interviewed” after his arrest by police who, he said, asked him the details of his preaching, an action that he was told later was not lawful.
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Selfridge said that although street preachers like Mr. Miano are doing nothing illegal, the atmosphere in Britain has left Christians vulnerable.
He said that such incidents come from a serious problem with the training of police officers, and a general public misunderstanding of the law. Many people in Britain think that the law intends to “pacify belligerent members of the public who do not want to hear Christianity preached.”
The other two pastors contacted Christian Concern and the organization has found legal counsel for Mr. Miano in Scotland. Mr. Miano appeared alone in court the next morning and was ordered to return to Dundee Sherriff’s Court in April.
The police, said Selfridge, acted without cause and without a full understanding of the law, alleging only that Miano had made “homophobic comments”.
“There is an extraordinary fear of accusations of this kind on the part of the establishment,” he said. Christian Concern is in discussions with Scotland Yard and other police authorities to try to help clarify that preaching Christian belief in public, even when it personally offends some members of the public, is not against the law, however unpopular it may be.
So frequent have these incidents become that they have prompted notice by Members of both the British and European Parliaments as examples of the increasing pressure on both religious rights and freedom of expression being created by the homosexualist movement. Miano’s arrest last summer prompted Andrea Minichiello Williams, the head of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), to write to Sir Bernard Hogan Howe of New Scotland Yard, asking that police be better trained. “I hope we can agree that preaching the Gospel on sexual ethics (absent extenuating circumstances) is a lawful activity.”
Mr. Miano, Selfridge said, was “not provoking any form of public disorder. It may be that people take offence if you talk about sin, but this is not the same as provoking anyone to violence or preaching hate.”
Lawyers for Christian Concern have tried to communicate to police that the difference is “easily identified in ordinary speech,” he added. “If I say that it says in the holy scriptures that homosexual practice is sinful, and I want to share that with you, that’s not breaking the law.”
A policeman who sees potential trouble brewing in a crowd when someone is preaching “may be justified in asking the speaker politely to move on if there is a risk of a public disturbance” but simply arresting someone for disagreeing with the zeitgeist is not the proper role for police, he said.
“We haven’t reached the position yet where it’s illegal to express a Christian viewpoint, but there is certainly more and more marginalisation” by officialdom in Britain, he said. And the situation is growing worse, with new legislation pending.
He cited a bill that proposes to outlaw even voluntary therapy to help with unwanted same-sex feelings. These, he said, are cases of people who are seeking help to leave the homosexual lifestyle, or who are bothered by unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction and who are now facing not only opposition by homosexualist activists, but by the government. The media, he said, has taken the position that helping those who ask for it is “wanting to force gay people to leave the lifestyle.”
The notion, Selfridge said, of “someone being ‘ex-gay or post-gay,’ of having unwanted same-sex attraction, is a massive offense to the more extreme gay activist groups like Stonewall. And they refuse to accept that it’s legitimate or honourable to want to move away from attractions or desires you don’t want.”
The bill before Parliament, he added, “has produced no evidence” but is going forward anyway, and one of its recommendations “would make it illegal for a man in those circumstances, who is having trouble with same-sex desires to seek help.”
“This is so draconian, as if it’s out of Eastern Europe, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s hard to believe the UK’s going that way.”