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No alarms and no surprises please

Dale McAlpine has been doing weekend street evangelism in the north of England for a number of years.  On April 20th he got into conversation with a passer-by in which he named homosexuality among a number of sins condemned in 1 Corinthians 6.  He was overheard by a Police Community Service Officer who happened to be his force's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender liaison officer and introduced himself as such.  He called for assistance.  And when three police officers arrived this is what happened:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12LtOKQ8U7c&feature=player_embedded"]

The following is from today's Daily Mail:

He was then arrested by the [smiling!!] uniformed officers and taken to a police station where officers took his fingerprints, a retina scan and a DNA swab.

He was placed in a cell for seven hours [where apparently he sang hymns as loudly as possible] before being charged with causing harassment, alarm or distress contrary to the Public Order Act 1986 [a law designed for drunken louts in town centres].

He appeared before magistrates in the town the following week where he pleaded not guilty to the charge and vowed to fight it.

But yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge after deciding not to continue with the case.

Chief Superintendent Steve Johnson, of Cumbria Police, said: 'Our officers and staff often have to make difficult decisions while balancing the law and people’s rights. This is not easy especially when opinions and interpretations differ [and especially when officers introduce themselves as minority rights activists!!].

'We would like to reassure the public that we respect, and are committed to upholding, the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Ok, thanks Chief Superintendent, I'm reassured by that.  But wait - he goes on...

'We are just as committed to maintaining the peace and preventing people feeling alarmed or distressed by the actions of others in public places.

Preventing people feeling alarmed!

Sleep easy tonight Cumbria.  The sword will still be wielded as often as not to ensure that none of you are alarmed or distressed by the views of soft-spoken evangelists.

Anyway well done Dale, you're a total legend!  And three pieces of advice for street preachers - 1) tape yourselves; 2) learn by heart section 29JA of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008:

29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)

In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.

thanks Paul for directing us to this

...and 3) go here for more legal info.

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0 thoughts on “No alarms and no surprises please

  1. Paul Huxley

    It's not even that they see it as a 50/50 split. The law is unambiguous on this matter.

    "29JA Protection of freedom of expression (sexual orientation)

    In this Part, for the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred."

    Imagine if we hadn't managed to get that bit added into the law! Removing it was one of Labour's election pledges this time round. I'd say it's astonishing except I've worked for CCFON/Christian Legal Centre long enough to know otherwise.

  2. Heather

    Wow! That someone might "feel alarmed" by another's public affirmation of Biblical truth is now reason to arrest the speaker? Is it possible to create a more subjective basis for legal intervention?

    A good reminder to pray regularly for those who have been specifically called to engage in street-evangelism.

  3. Glen

    Thanks very much for linking that clause Paul. Next time I'm on the streets it might have to be tracts in one hand, clause 61 in the other!

  4. Si Hollett

    I'm sure Milton Friedman, being an economist is talking about economics, but he says: "A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both."

    An interesting thing is that the police decide it was 'racially aggravated'? Have they no grasp of the English language or is 'homosexual' now a 'race' like White British or Chinese? I'm very alarmed by Cumbria police and distressed that their officers either don't know the law, or decided to ignore its clear direction on cases like this.

  5. Heather

    Si,

    I've noticed that US based pro-h groups seem to like to compare their minority status with that of those of African descent whose skin color has historically allowed for them to be enslaved and/or pushed to the edges of society.

    The "born that way/victim of circumstance" argument is often employed and then shifts focus to how certain ethnic groups and women have been granted recognition equal rights in our country.

    I'm not as well-studied on world history as I ought to be, but there seems to be a general pattern concerning the open and widespread acceptance of homosexuality shortly preceding the severe downfall of various societies.
    But perhaps I just dreamed that up on my own.

  6. Joshua

    This reminds me of a saying I heard when it comes to Christians being persecuted; "For every spiritual action, there is an unequal and opposite reaction."

    I wonder how long until we see this in Oz.

  7. John B

    I'm most grateful to Dale for taking a bold stand for freedom of expression, which is the liberty that is above all others, while at the same time the foundation of all civil rights.

    Looking at the issue of evangelism and homosexuality from another angle, I was pleased this week to see the Associated Press article on Bill Henson and his locally-based ministry, FOTOS:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-05-14-evangelical-gay_N.htm

    Henson is a biblically orthodox evangelical who is working to get beyond the culture war that leaves so many gays outside of the church. He is a pioneering evangelist in his compassionate outreach to gays, and is therefore often mistaken as liberal in his theology.

    The parallel between homosexuality and race is certainly an imperfect one. But when I read the song to the Lamb in Revelation 5, which speaks of the blood ransomed "people for God", the good news is clearly for gays no less so than for all others. Gays, while not a people or a nation, are certainly included among those "from every tribe" for whom the Lamb was slain.

    (Ephesians 3:6) "This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

  8. Glen

    Hey John,
    As I understand it Dale's conversation was one to one and in response to a direct question. In street *preaching* my motto's 'nothing but Christ and Him crucified'.

    I like the sound of Henson's ministry.

  9. Heather

    I wanted to clarify that I was not intending to single out homosexuality as the single cause of the downfall of a society. I meant the overall approval and tolerance of immorality that follows a sharp departure from Biblical standards of right and wrong.

    That article on Bill Henson is interesting. I wonder if his ministry is similar to that of Peter Ould?
    http://www.peter-ould.net/

    Craig and I spent time discussing online with a pretty liberal couple about the church's perceived view of those who are gay. It was eye-opening. There is a huge rift as conservative Christians tend to be stuck on the idea that homosexual people have chosen to be gay (as opposed to choosing to act on a sinful urge).

    The liberal couple didn't understand why Christians would not approve of legalized gay marriage when these people can't help the way they feel and only want to be given "equal treatment under law". Being "born that way" actually may have some merit in that we are all born sinners and the urge to sin manifests itself in many different ways. But, just as I cannot excuse my own sinful tendency to overeat, I cannot endorse sinful behavior in others.

    At about the same time, we contacted a gay Christian man who recognizes his tendency as wrong and struggles tremendously to remain pure in thought and action. He related a very sad incident that occurred at his church (no one there knows about his struggle). One of his acquaintances spoke quite harshly about "evil homosexuals" and really cut that man's heart to the quick. Not all who feel "gay" desire to revel in the wrongness but many are sworn to secrecy for fear of being judged and ostracized by people who previously called them "friend".

  10. John B

    As long as it remains within a constitutional framework, I'm fully at peace with whatever choices the majority makes regarding civil marriages, including the legal recognition of gay marriage.

    Although it wasn't a question that was considered during his lifetime, C.S. Lewis expressed views about divorce that seem to be consistent with support for gay marriage in the civil realm.

    Here is a quote written by Lewis in 1943 in what would later become his book, "Mere Christianity"

    "Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question--how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the state with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not." (Book III, chapter 6)

  11. Heather

    John B,

    Interesting you should mention divorce. I know of one Christian lady who avoids discussing the moral implications of gay marriage because the divorce rate among professing Christians rivals that of non. She herself is not divorced, but I see her point concerning the hypocrisy of a group that supposedly upholds the sanctity of marriage with one hand while tearing it apart with the other.

    I'm totally fine with treating all citizens fairly concerning hospital visitation, personal property, individual protection etc.

    If such a conclusion as you referenced could be reached without my having to indicate approval of unrepentant sin, I'm okay with that. Not sure such a separation could practically be reached in a country that has, over the last several decades, been steadily increasing in state-sponsored intervention in religious and private affairs.

    I believe the Bible gives us instruction about the need for Christians to be peaceable, law abiding citizens in whatever culture we happen to live. In our democratically inclined republic, the responsibility for the shaping of our laws and government has been, in part, placed in the hands of voting-age citizens. Personally, I believe the quality of government we have is largely a reflection of the spiritual state of the general populace.

    Ultimately, the Lord is in control of it all and today, we have what we have. My guess is that we've been given what we've asked for as interest in God has, in many ways, been pushed to the dusty corners of our hearts while we have engaged in self-centered pursuit of "life, liberty and happiness". Can't speak for anyone else, of course, but that conviction fell heavily on me this past year and I've heard from others who have experienced the same.

    I know you can't pass laws that force people to become "Christian" and would never advocate such a thing. But someone's moral standard ends up dictating the general tenor of the laws in any country.
    I'm not a political activist and am not planning to picket and carry on if a law concerning gay marriage is passed over the heads of the voters by our elected leaders. If "asked" via legal voting process what is my preference, I would have a hard time voting in favor of a law that specifically recognizes and approves of sinful behavior. There does come a point when every individual must live with his own conscience before God concerning the things to which he has indicated he is in agreement.

  12. Heather

    Okay, I probably didn't need to type every thought that went through my head.

    A more concise response might be:

    From my perspective, the issue is not so much which laws favor which groups. In a mixed society such as ours, it is impossible to please everyone. Sometimes, laws get passed that I personally feel are not good.

    I know the Lord's in control, regardless of what things look like from this side of eternity. For now, I'm more concerned with how I conduct myself during the decision making process that will continue to shape the direction in which our country moves.

    In my understanding, I would be holding to a double standard if I consciously support a legal measure that endorses something I can plainly read that the Lord has defined as "sin".

    If there is a way to better reconcile secular lawmaking with Christian conscience, I'd love to know because my natural inclination is to back away completely and align with the pacifistic sects that believe Christians have no business meddling in the political realm.

  13. John B

    Hi Heather,

    As a voter, I favor the recognition of a distinction between civil unions (for gays) and marriages (not for gays). One of the benefits of holding to this distinction is that it might provide some means for working around the breach in the separation of church and state that has occurred here during the past generation and to which you referred. (I have to tread lightly on the church and state issue, as there are Anglicans here.) ;-)

    I too, am one to normally just grin and bear it, however things turn out politically. But I did do some picketing and carrying on when our state supreme court, by the narrowest of margins, had an epiphany and discovered the previously unknown right to gay marriage hidden away in our state constitution unnoticed since its ratification more than two hundred years ago! In light of their revelation, the court mandated gay marriage here by judicial fiat.

  14. Heather

    (I have to tread lightly on the church and state issue, as there are Anglicans here.) ;-)

    I also hope my thoughts have not been offensive. We live in an area with a large population of Mennonites, so I suppose that has influenced my thinking some.

    Definitely can agree that American Christians have had a wrong political focus far too often (ie tying in to the “conservative” Republican party in the hope of altering our society’s path to self-destruction via top-down legislation).
    We are not to place our hope in human means of "salvation", that's clear. My main reason for wanting to be a-political stems more from uncertainty about where the line between church and state ought to be rather than unwavering conviction concerning total separation.

    Honestly, I'm not sure it's desirable or even possible to completely separate Church from state. The Church, State and Family all have their own appropriate spheres of operation--but they do overlap at various levels. A man’s religious conviction (or lack thereof) will necessarily affect his decisions in whatever social/political position God sees fit to place him.

    We can kick Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism etc out of the political mix, but even atheistic secular humanism is a form of religion with capricious "man" as ultimate authority. When man of any religious bent tries to shove the light of God's Truth aside, the void that remains is not one of neutrality, but darkness.

    In a historically free society, where average citizens have been gifted a public voice concerning the direction of our nation, it seems a pretty poor stewardship of the trust to not vote against the attempts of worldly leaders to cause our nation to corporately thumb it's nose at God.

    As you can see, on this issue of Church and State, I am quite firmly planted

    on the fence rail. :/

  15. John B

    Hi Heather,

    On these questions of church and state I fall on the Baptist side of the fence. But not Anabaptist, such as the Amish who seek to isolate the church from the state. I'm not too familiar with the Mennonites, but I've heard that they aren't as rigorously separatist as the Amish.

    I think that Spurgeon was right when he wrote: "The inmost soul of Protestantism is the responsibility of the conscience to God alone, the spiritual nature of true religion, and the freedom of faith from the rule of earthly lords."

    The American ideal has historically been for a clear separation with real cooperation between church and state. Imperfectly realized to be sure, but the aim is sound.

    I treasure the *No religious test, Establishment, and Free Exercise* clauses in the US Constitution, which safeguard our freedom of faith.

    In our Lord Jesus' own words in answering Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world."

  16. Heather

    John B

    We aren't anabaptist, either. I expect there are as many different varieties of Mennonites/Amish as their are Baptists. Some groups are far more separate than are others. But I think the non-political involvement is pretty straight across the board.

    It's interesting, though, how one's surrounding culture can have such a strong influence.

    I treasure the *No religious test, Establishment, and Free Exercise* clauses in the US Constitution, which safeguard our freedom of faith.
    I agree these are valuable tools to help preserve freedom. However, I also have to keep reminding myself to not assume that my freedom is ensured simply because of the existence of those statements. The Constitution and it's amendments are just a set of guidelines drawn up by fallible men and are subject to change.

    Yep, Jesus' words have been a strong deterrent to my getting too aggressive about political wrangling. We are instructed to pray for our leaders and trust the Lord's care. This much I know.

    Well, this has been an interesting side-discussion, but I'd better step off now. Don't want to abuse Glen's sense of hospitality. :)

  17. John B

    Hi Heather,

    Yes, indeed, constitutions are valuable political tools, but of themselves, only that and no more.

    In his book, "Witness", Whitaker Chambers provides this insight on freedom:

    "God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom. He is the only guarantor. External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom."

  18. Glen

    Thanks for all your comments guys. And keep them coming - I've got no problem at all with people carrying on long conversations in the blog's underbelly. On weekends I'm probably least likely to chime in, but I welcome the discussion.

    On this one, it's interesting I was contemplating finishing the post with a thought about blasphemy. The Christian Institute that helped Dale McAlpine with his case has also campaigned heavily against "Jerry Springer the Opera" - a very creative and at times wildly funny piece of theatre that descends into 5 star blasphemy by the end. We want street evangelist's to be free to offend the public because of their religious views - but we complain when the shoe's on the other foot. Of course we should protest - but protest by proclaiming the gospel, not (in my opinion) calling the cops.

    As Heather has said, there's no neutrality in all this - some god is always in control. But therefore if we really want to engage the powers that be we should engage them on a *gospel* footing. Which probably means keeping on preaching - and keeping on getting thrown in jail.

  19. Heather

    John B,

    Interesting quote. Been chewing on it most of the day. Might have formed a coherent thought by morning.

    Glen said:
    Which probably means keeping on preaching – and keeping on getting thrown in jail.

    That seems to be pretty consistent with the main body of Christian history, doesn't it?

  20. Si Hollett

    Glen - with respect to blasphemy, you are spot on - totally hypocritical to cry hate-speech when its against you, but demand a right to offend when you are speaking. But I will point out that

    This the culture war - we have two cultures, one theist (you could argue several flavours to that), one secularist trying to be imposed by one side or the other. The American first amendment imposes state neutrality in this war - freedom of speech, conscience and expression protecting all people's right to express religious views (be they Hindu, Atheist, Deist, Christian, Muslim) and on the other side of the coin, no establishment banning the state imposition of religion on people (though of course there's no neutral ground, so you have the bizarre mix of both the banning of religious things like school prayer and ten commandments outside court rooms (ignoring all the religious stuff on buildings in DC and such like), but also quite a lot of religious stuff - 'in God we Trust' on money, and 'one nation under God' in the pledge of allegiance).

    In the UK it matters far more, as we only have this as the highest protection:
    "1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
    2. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." (ECHR, article 9)

    This means that the police, while the arrest was unlawful, it may not have been a breech of Dale's right to manifest his religion, due to clause 2 - the police would argue that the arrest was necessary for the 'protection of public order' or something similar.

    We also have established religion in the UK, but as far as I can see, all that means is that there are Bishops in the House of Lords, but they were picked by the Prime Minister of the time (though Brown, in a shocking move, actually reduced his power, and has fully delegated the job to the church authorities). The blasphemy laws are basically internal church discipline, made law because church discipline is a state matter in a state church, likewise, while demanded, things like daily Christian worship in schools aren't enforced at all. The teeth in the culture war in the UK are with the secularist culture side, although the Islamic culture side got some stuff off Labour, as appeasement for Iraq, to try and keep one of their bases. There are, however still rather a lot of people, of various cultures, who uphold tolerance of a variety of viewpoints, and don't agree with a right not to be offended.

  21. Heather

    This the culture war – we have two cultures, one theist (you could argue several flavours to that), one secularist trying to be imposed by one side or the other.

    I'm not sure that's the most accurate breakdown. I would think "pro-Christ" and "anti-Christ" would be a better representation. There is a common element between secularism and the "other" world religions in that they either deny Christ altogether or remake Him into something other than only God who is Savior and Lord.

    Unfortunately, we Christians often inadvertently side with the "against Jesus" group when we agree to identify politically/socially with those who appear to value some representation of god while engaging an overtly anti-God faction.

    The teeth in the culture war in the UK are with the secularist culture side, although the Islamic culture side got some stuff off Labour, as appeasement for Iraq, to try and keep one of their bases.

    For Christians in the US or UK, I don't believe it would matter whether atheism (secular) or Islam (religion) is the "ultimate" winner on the political front. Both belief systems arise from a geographically dominionistic worldview and have histories of violent overthrow of various societies. Islam claims land for Allah while atheistic communism grabs for power in the name of almighty man. Currently, it is possible to see that both systems have altered their approach by being willing to peacefully coexist until there is a strong enough presence to take over without alarming the general population.

    It is interesting to me that cultures which have been claimed by either anti-Christ ideology have been experiencing tremendous growth within the persecuted Christian church.

  22. Si Hollett

    Heather, that is a much better description of the culture war, although it isn't the one where the fighting is as much taking place - that's between two different 'anti-Christ' cultures.

    Also totally agree that for Christians either side winning will lead to persecution - both sides want the same thing - imposition of their culture requirements and norms on everyone else.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with being co-belligerents with one side to oppose a move by the other side, the problem comes with confusing what the side is trying to do - thinking Allah and the living God are the same, or that Mormon or Roman Catholic Jesus's are the same as ours (Mormon Jesus isn't one-being with the Father, official Roman Catholic Jesus, isn't a very good high priest - need to supplement his work with works and getting others to intercede for you). You can fall off the other side too, siding with the secularists to fight 'judgemental-ism' or whatever.

  23. Heather

    Si,

    I think I'm following you. It's true there are many groups that may hold to values that are similar to those of historic, orthodox Christianity. There does come a point when agreement on certain things will occur and outward action can look pretty similar. The only way to avoid potential confusion would probably be to tape one's mouth shut and avoid all social interaction. Guess that isn't a satisfactory option if one hopes to be salt and light...

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