MANCHESTER, UK, April 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The spate of Christian preachers being arrested for repeating the Biblical prohibitions against homosexual activity may be coming to an end with the awarding of £13,000 in damages to 57 year-old street preacher John Craven of Manchester.
In September 2011, Mr. Craven was held by police in a cell for 19 hours after he was arrested by Greater Manchester Police for saying in a public area that homosexual activity is a sin.
The compensation is an out-of-court settlement for “wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of his human rights.” In total, the Manchester Police will have to pay £50,000, including legal fees.
Craven released a statement saying he had “never intended to cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress” with his preaching. He said his Bible-based Christian message means “good news and the love of God for all.” Craven said that in his preaching, he emphasized that while God hates sin, he “loves the sinner.”
“The actions of the police have left me feeling nervous and anxious. I found the whole episode extremely distressing,” he said. He added that he thought they “were calculated to give me and other street preachers the impression that we could not preach the gospel in public without breaking the law and if we did we would be arrested.”
Mr. Craven was arrested when two teenaged boys complained about his preaching to local police. The two boys started by kissing and engaging in suggestive movements in front of him while he was preaching, and then demanded to know what the Bible said about homosexuality. After Craven told them, they complained to police.
Craven said that while he was in custody, he was not given food or water for 15 hours while he was detained and was denied access to his arthritis medication.
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Human rights campaigners have repeatedly called on British police to stop the practice of automatically arresting Christians in clashes with provocative homosexualists. The problem has become so prominent it has received mention at the European Union by MEPs and others concerned about the erosion of freedom of speech and religion in Britain. In 2013, after a long string of similar arrests, the law was amended to remove the wording from Section 5 of the Public Order Act that had allowed homosexualist activists to use it to silence Christian opposition. But campaigners say the police have yet to get the message.
In July 2013, after the arrest of visiting American street preacher Tony Miano, Christian campaigners issued a public protest to British police, saying, “Stop arresting Christian street preachers.” Andrea Minichiello Williams, the head of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), wrote a letter to Sir Bernard Hogan Howe of New Scotland Yard, saying, “I hope we can agree that preaching the Gospel on sexual ethics (absent extenuating circumstances) is a lawful activity.”
Mr. Craven, however, was arrested under Section 4 of the same act, which was not amended, and some are warning that the law needs to be changed again. The National Secular Society, a group that normally campaigns against Christian involvement in public life, was among the organizations that had asked for the repeal of the wording in Section 5. The society issued a media release Monday saying that Section 4 must now be changed. Section 4 criminalizes the use of “insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.”
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said, “We fought along with the Christian Institute to have Section 5 of the Public Order Act amended to protect free speech. But free speech belongs to everybody, even those you disagree with, and so we support the right of street preachers to quote the Bible without having their collars felt.”
Colin Hart, the head of the Christian Institute, said, “Nobody should face 19 hours in custody for simply answering a question about their beliefs.” He said the way Mr. Craven was treated was “disgraceful” and “fell well below what the public deserve.”
“In terms of the infringement of religious liberty, it was one of the worst cases we have ever dealt with.”
Mr. Craven is following a centuries-old tradition of British street evangelism, but the activity, which is a common sight in many northern towns and cities, is becoming suppressed by recently passed equalities legislation. The clash over the orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality and the recent growth of the homosexualist ideology in Britain is playing out repeatedly with these amateur lay preachers who often do not have the protection of an organized church behind them.
Hart said, “Freedom of expression is a very basic human right. The very foundations of our liberty depend upon it. I hope that Greater Manchester Police learn lessons for the future from this case and make every effort to ensure that it never happens again.”