The Christian Legal Centre has claimed that freedom of speech in this country is being removed, after the third Christian street preacher in three months was arrested for open-air preaching.
Tony Miano was arrested in July; Robbie Hughes was arrested in Basildon in September; and, later in September, Australian pastor Josh Williamson was arrested twice after speaking in Perth.
According to Christian Concern, the first time Mr Williamson was arrested, a policeman told the pastor of Craigie Reformed Baptist Church, Perth, Scotland, to stop preaching because he was breaking the law.
Mr Williamson, who has a loud voice and is affectionately known as ‘the Gobby Aussie’, was taken to the police station and released with a caution. A man who stood up for him was also arrested at the scene.
Mr Williamson said the police denied that he had been arrested, but he conducted an mp3 recording of the incident, which has the officer confirming that the pastor was being arrested.
The following Saturday, Mr Williamson said, ‘I was joined by two [Christians] from Glasgow and our plan was to share the good news of Jesus in the city of Perth.
‘When we arrived in the city centre, we were greeted with a barrage of noise. At one end of the street was a busker playing loud South American music through an amplifier, and then in the middle of the street was an opera singer, who was singing at the top of her lungs with amplification.
‘We didn’t have any amplification’.
He said the three men had been preaching for a while. Some police officers came up and, after some remonstration over the filming of the incident, Mr Williamson was detained. He said, ‘As I was being manhandled towards the vehicle, some in the crowd erupted in cheers’.
In a statement, Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said, ‘These street preachers are not breaking any laws and are perfectly within their rights. The police are overreaching their authority and misapplying the law. Their actions show an increasing hostility towards Christianity.
‘The threat to freedom of speech is a concern for wider society, not just for Christians. Three wrong arrests in three months just shows the level of ignorance that currently exists. It’s up to police chiefs to take a lead and issue guidelines, so that this stops happening’.