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Hey coppers, don’t silence street preachers – it just eggs them on to new heights of hysteria

I VIEW street preachers as part of life’s rich tapestry – or at least as the grubby and annoying frayed bits at the edges. I don’t take them seriously unless they step seriously out of line, in which case I am quite prepared to take action.

Some years ago I intervened when an evangelist outside a hospital in Paddington, London, stood screaming at a picket line of nurses protesting against health service cuts. Dressed entirely in black, and brandishing a Bible the size of a breeze block, he let loose a torrent of misogynistic abuse, branding the nurses “harlots” and “whores” and much else besides.

When I told him to shut the fuck up, he tried to belt me one with his Bible. I grabbed it, forced it out of his grip, and threw under the wheels of big red bus – and whoops of delight came from the picket line. I left the lunatic sobbing and trying to salvage bits of his shredded “holy” book from the middle of the road.

But, by and large, these inadequate little reptiles –  intellectual midgets with their heads full of Jesus, their silly signs, bullhorns and pathetic biblical tracts – are easily avoided, and there is no reason to invoke the law to shut them up when you can simply plug in your iPod – after all, that’s why it was invented.

But despite the fact that Section 5 of the Public Order Act in England was amended late last year to erase the word “insulting” from the clause in the Act that covers speech and writing on signs – every now and again cases still arise that irritate me intensely because they represent a waste of police time and resources.

Worse, they give more ammunition to the “persecuted Christian” brigade.

The latest of these involved an American evangelist who was arrested and detained this week in London during the Wimbledon Championships while preaching about “sexual immorality”.

According to this report, a bunch of evangelical wackos – members of something called Sports Fan Outreach International – have been active in England over the past week “to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with attendees of the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament”.

Tony Miano

Tony Miano

Tony Miano, a retired Los Angeles police officer who traveled to the UK with the team, claimed that he was preaching about sexual immorality from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 on Monday when a woman became agitated by his message and began to curse.The posturing nincompoop said:

[I preached about] the fact that people are in sin and are violating God’s word and His law by engaging in immorality — both heterosexual immorality and homosexual immorality.

Since he had included homosexuality in his sermon, the woman, who had gone into a nearby store and came out to find Miano still speaking, called the police to complain. Moments later, officers arrived and notified Miano that he had allegedly violated Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

The words that the police officers used was that I was guilty of using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult. I tried to explain to the officers that there is nothing homophobic about my speech because I am not afraid of homosexuals — that I love homosexuals enough to want to bring them the truth of the Gospel.

Miano was then told that he was under arrest and was asked to follow the officers uncuffed to the police station, which was five minutes away from where he was standing. The evangelist states that he was booked, photographed and fingerprinted, and police also took a DNA sample to ensure that he was not a wanted criminal.

Miano outlined that he was later questioned meticulously by a detective about his beliefs.

It was surreal because I was interrogated about my faith in Jesus Christ. I was asked if I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I was asked what portion of the Bible I was reading. I was asked if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to me, would I give them something to eat.

Police then concluded by asking Miano whether he believed he did anything wrong, and if he would make similar statements again when released. Miano replied by contending that he had done nothing unlawful, and that he would indeed preach the same message again if he felt led to do so by the Lord.

After the detective and Miano’s attorney – Michael Phillips of Christian Concern – spoke, Phillips returned with bad news.

He said that my answer to the last two questions basically sealed the deal — that they were going to go forward with prosecution [and] that I would be in jail likely for 24 hours. And then I would appear before a judge … [who] would order me to remain in the country until the trial was completed, which could take four to five months.

Miano was then escorted back to his jail cell where he believed he would be spending the night. He began preaching and singing in his cell, and also asked his attorney if he could have a copy of the Bible. Miano said that after he received the Scriptures, he turned to the Book of Acts and began to find “great comfort” in the stories of the apostles who were also jailed for their bold preaching.

However, much to his surprise, after some time, the detective came to his cell to inform him that there had been a change of plans, and he was free to go.

Miano used his blog to say:

I was interrogated because I was a Christian … It’s coming. It’s coming to the United States. No doubt about it, the day is coming when Christians will be arrested not only for what they say, but for what they believe.

His experience inspired him to return to the spot where he was arrested to deliver a sermon, the gist of which was how:

Great Britain like America has forfeited the soul of the nation.

28 Responses to “Hey coppers, don’t silence street preachers – it just eggs them on to new heights of hysteria”

  1. I support free speech, not street harassment says:

    The report says, “he let loose a torrent of misogynistic abuse, branding the nurses ‘harlots’ and ‘whores’ and much else besides.” Harassing PEOPLE is assault, not free speech. Saying the Bible is rubbish is not harassment of PEOPLE. Street harassment of any type is assault and should be treated as such.

  2. Angela_K says:

    The best way to deal with these morons is a good bit of barracking but if they resort to any kind of hate speech, then they should be arrested.

  3. jay says:

    I go along strongly with the free speech you discuss. As long as they are not physically harming or causing actual disruption, they should be allowed their little tirades. Not just for the fact of not giving them something to be a martyr about, but also to protect the concept of free speech for all of us.

    The initial police reaction of arresting him because of homophobic comments was very disturbing. The whole concept of picking certain things (depending on who is in influence at the moment) and demanding ‘you can’t say that’ is a very dangerous thing. Why shouldn’t he be free to criticize homosexuality, or atheists.. big deal.. it’s just his stupid ass opinion.

    It’s only a very small step from arresting someone for remarks critical of homosexuality to arresting someone for remarks critical of Islam or Christianity.

  4. The Woggler says:

    It’s difficult not to shout something insulting to these people, but what good would it do? They’re so full of their self-righteous crap and love hearing their own voices so much, anything said goes in one ear and bounces off the concrete block in their heads.

    I doubt there’s many people who stop and listen to these idiots, so it’s their own time and energy they waste.

  5. AgentCormac says:

    My preferred line of attack with these irritating loons is to approach them and say as quietly as I can, ‘No one is listening’. Which is almost always the case. It usually knocks them out of their stride – for a beat at two at least.

  6. remigius says:

    I would be in jail likely for 24 hours. And then I would appear before a judge … [who] would order me to remain in the country until the trial was completed, which could take four to five months.

    This is bollocks.

    Offences under s.5 Public Order Act [1986] are summary offences and are tried before a Magistrate’s Court, not a judge. And such cases are heard within days/weeks, not 4-5 months.

    Someone is either lying, or doesn’t know the law. But as the ‘attorney’ is from Christian Concern, it’s difficult to say which.

  7. ZombieHunter says:

    The way I see it if someone is in a public place they have a right to voice their beliefs be they religious or political or whatever and to be honest street preachers who are just standing to the side preaching away are a lot less annoying than the hare krishnas who actually approach you in the street and follow you and can’t seem to take no for an answer, hare krishnas have made a comeback in Glasgow city centre recently though luckily enough I managed to avoid them :P

  8. Trevor Blake says:

    Mohammed al-Arifi has been admitted into England. He said “There is no doubt that one’s devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah and one’s will to shed blood, smash skulls, and chop off body parts for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion constitute an honor for the believer.” [citation] So of course he should be admitted to England. Pam Geller and Robert Spencer, who quote Mr. al-Arifi accurately and in context and with citations, of course have been banned. [citation]. Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carol were arrested for ‘obstructing a police officer’ (aka walking past a mosque while criminally not being a Muslim). [citation]

    England, you gave us the Magna Carta. Do you need to borrow it again to refresh your memory?

  9. sailor1031 says:

    If they still had the old-time beat cops this wouldn’t be a problem. A simple “move along there” would be all that was required. I’ll bet it was like that in the UK too! Now of course they have to be summoned from their little fortress or patrol car so it has to be made a big deal to be worth it!

  10. remigius says:

    sailor1031 – here is the actual arrest.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2vu9CI5Ij4&t=25m0s

  11. Oldtimer says:

    I find all this stuff really sad.

    There have always been funny men with sandwichboards preaching in towns. The boards always read “Prepare to meet thy God”, or “The wicked shall burn in hell” or “Repent” or whatever. Nobody ever paid any attention, and they were harmless enough.

    Is this country now so bigoted that these oddities must be harassed and arrested and “questioned” and all the crap of a police state? I don’t care what they believe; but I am quite sure that I don’t want informers denouncing them to the police.

    Live and let live.

    The comments above seem strange to me. So much hate… for someone you don’t know, and who was simply stood there expressing opinions which are very widely held, if doing so in a religious way.

    These are, as I said, sad times.

  12. AgentCormac says:

    remigius

    As I said, no one is ever listening.

  13. AngieRS says:

    They should have nicked him for breach of the peace with that stupid bullhorn.

  14. Robster says:

    “the day is coming when Christians will be arrested not only for what they say, but for what they believe”. At last! Christian belief is being exposed for what it is: Hateful, silly nonsense, a fraud, a con. The sooner it’s outlawed or at least controlled the better. People aren’t allowed to go about spreading bigoted hate, this is a good move.

  15. L.Long says:

    I can give sources as this was long ago, but the Romans ‘persecuted’ the xtians for doing just this type of thing, Telling the gov’mint they where unholy and refusing to follow the Roman laws, and sowing civil discord. And just being generally laud and obnoxious. Good to see nothing about them has ever really changed.

  16. Matt+Westwood says:

    @Robster: Pointless though the xtian religion is, IMO it’s a bad move to outlaw it, because then there’s a precedent for outlawing any other belief, ideology or philosophy that any other brainless hothead wants to boo-hoo about.

    “Outlaw the Axiom of Choice (tt gives rise to philosophical paradoxes)! Render illegal the use of symbology based on the Flying Spaghetti Monster! To death with the supporters of the Green Party!” And so on.

  17. OurSally says:

    L.Long – now I think you should be arrested for crimes against grammar, and I sentence you to 30 minutes alone with a dictionary.

  18. Angela_K says:

    @Oldtimer. There is a fine line between standing around shouting ludicrous beliefs and inciting hatred or violence, the former should be allowed so we can point and laugh but the later is unacceptable in a civilised society. Sadly the religions – especially Islam – are given far too much privilege and so can flout the law with impunity.

  19. Har Davids says:

    Let them scream, but without bull-horns! According to this guy, we’re all destined to spend an eternity in Hell, a place where he’ll probably not be.

  20. Daz says:

    Oldtimer

    The comments above seem strange to me. So much hate… for someone you don’t know, and who was simply stood there expressing opinions which are very widely held, if doing so in a religious way.

    Not as widely held as he’d like. And even widely held bigotry is still bigotry. He has the right to express his view that we’re all a bunch of Hell-bound sinners; we have the right to express our view that he’s a bigot who supports his unfounded beliefs by reference to an iron age book of tribal mythology.

    This lesson on basic free speech was brought to you by Statin’ The Bleedin’ Obvious PLC.

  21. barriejohn says:

    Oldtimer: Are you quite sure that you posted your comment on the right thread?

    But, by and large, these inadequate little reptiles – intellectual midgets with their heads full of Jesus, their silly signs, bullhorns and pathetic biblical tracts – are easily avoided, and there is no reason to invoke the law to shut them up when you can simply plug in your iPod – after all, that’s why it was invented.

    But despite the fact that Section 5 of the Public Order Act in England was amended late last year to erase the word “insulting” from the clause in the Act that covers speech and writing on signs – every now and again cases still arise that irritate me intensely because they represent a waste of police time and resources.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/12/peers-law-banning-insulting-language

    Most commenters seem to be in agreement with these sentiments!

  22. Robster says:

    Hi Matt+Westwood, you’re right of course. Seems though, to get society over the total nonsense of religious belief, some sort of strong action will need to be taken. Perhaps some sort of control is advised, the control mechanism could be given a name that is totally abstract while sounding impressive to keep the deluded minions on side.

  23. 1859 says:

    Just watched the YouTube arrest. A telling moment is when the constable asks ‘Then why do you do it?’ and the fruit cake answers because ‘God has called me to preach his message.’ In other words ‘You can’t argue with me because you can’t argue with god – I’m just doing what he tells me to.’ Then when you object you are labelled as arrogant etc., etc. However, this sort of police intervention is exactly what these nut cases want – publicity. Why was the camera filming the entire arrest? And so quickly posted on YTube? A complete waste of police time and resources – I bet the pickpockets at Wimbledon were having a profitable time with four police officers attending this guy.
    They should have just disconnected his megaphone and let him preach with the normal volume of his voice – then it would have been much easier to have ignored him.

  24. Stuart H. says:

    Think Zombie Hunter’s got it about right – if they’re not obstructing passers by think of it as naff street theatre, and probably unintentionally funnier or no worse than some Arts Council funded efforts. But obstructing people or shouting abuse is crossing the line and shouldn’t be tolerated.
    For what it’s worth, can I just repeat my successful strategy? When ‘street preachers’ started physically stopping folk with families in my town I put an open letter to the Chief Constable in the local paper asking if ‘aggressive begging’ was still a criminal offence, and suggesting that if threatening pensioners and small kids with hellfire wasn’t demanding money with menaces then I didn’t know what was.
    Maybe this only works in a small community where you’re on first name terms with everyone so can’t get too physical or start running to the courts, but neighbours at the church involved saw the joke, reined in their lunatic fringe, and still speak to me, so it can be done.

  25. Jose says:

    Quite shocked at the level of “Intolerance” and “Hatred” being displayed toward this street preacher on here. Are we all so blinded by some kind of self righteous hypocrisy? Because YOU
    view him as intolerant or hateful – its ok then to mock, verbally abuse and ridicule his personal beliefs? I see. That sounds fair doesn’t it. Bit of a “You started it first” playground retort aye? And this is the ‘Freethinker’s’ intellectual response is it? OK then. As any genuine Christian will tell you – YOU are entitled to your own beliefs, opinions, and mind set. IT’S YOUR CHOICE. GOD does not force or try to control you. He IS a GOD of free will, and ‘free thought’ for that matter – though you’ll probably never know TRUE Freedom unless you receive HIS Liberation. Point I really want to make is – as with me personally and many other believers who perhaps none of you have been fortunate to meet – where Christ took us from – was a horrible, self-destructive, sometimes suicidal, abusive lifestyle. And HE truly changed and saved us. Isn’t THAT understandably something a person who has been through say Rape, Child Abuse, Drug Addiction, Alcoholism, Violent Aggressive Lifestyles, Prison & Crime, Gang Life, Torture, Suicidal tendencies, Self Harm…(and much more), would want to share about the ONE who saved them from that? The WAY OUT of those corruptive lifestyles? If I tell you I have a remedy for your problem (come on be honest – WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING) – you don’t have to listen…but can you blame me for suggesting? As with Christ Jesus – He didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17). Jesus DOES Love YOU. Whether you realise that or not. GOD BLESS YOU.

  26. barriejohn says:

    Jose: Bollocks. You have the right to proclaim how “Jesus” saved you from a life of self-harm, etc (as this article makes clear), and those of us whose lives were destroyed, and who were brought to the very brink of suicide, by Christian belief have an equal right to show up that belief system for the damage that it can and often does cause. Touche!

  27. [...] the wake of the arrest at Wimbledon of US preacher Tony Miano, 49 –  who was held by Met Police officers for almost seven hours recently – Christian activists [...]