King's Evangelical Divinity School

5 July 2013

Arrested for Offending. It's All Becoming Quite Sinister

Archbishop Cranmer has posted a video of a US street preacher arrested this week in London because someone listening to him was offended by what he had to say (while talking about sin he dwelt upon all forms of sexual immorality and had the audacity to label homosexuality a "sin"). The video details the exchange with the police (from about 24:30 onwards). Cranmer has also posted a transcript of the interview held later at the police station, which the police have apparently released. The story has also been covered in the Christian press and elsewhere, including the Daily Telegraph.

Whatever your view of street preaching, or the style or approach of this particular preacher (though uncompromising in his beliefs he seemed far more respectful and controlled than some I've heard, possibly because he is a former US police office), we have indeed reached a sinister stage in our country where a single individual who is "offended" can result in the arrest, fingerprinting, DNA sampling and interrogation of another individual. And it won't stop there. I wouldn't be surprised if the preacher isn't allowed back in the country. 

This situation is wrong on so many levels. That a single complainant can have a person arrested merely because she felt offended. That even though she swore at him in a public place (she told him to F off) he is the one arrested. That really it's not about "offence" in general (after all, when was the last time someone was arrested for offending Christians?) but rather that someone challenged and offended the new orthodoxy. That to express a view which a segment of society disagrees with can now result in this kind of police action. That people frequently say offensive things on our streets, behave obnoxiously, even demonstrate aggressively, yet without fear of arrest. That while some gay people are as appalled by this lack of freedom as anyone else, yet others are delighting in hounding Christians (conveniently forgetting that publicising the hounding of homosexuals has been the linchpin of the gay liberation movement). That the police now police people's sexual viewpoints and how they express them. That we now have the ludicrous situation where policemen question and probe someone's theology in a recorded interview. That deep down we think we know that if the preacher's colleagues hadn't recorded the event for this very reason, quite a different story, demonising the preacher, would have emerged. That it all contributes to making a great country in so many ways look rather petty, silly and a bit over-sensitive. That this has been a complete waste of time and money. That before hitting the "Publish" button I'm having to read through this carefully just to make sure I haven't said anything that may result in my arrest.

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