Carlisle Council has been forced to apologise for getting the law wrong after it tried to stop a street evangelist handing out gospel tracts. An official from Carlisle Council told Keith Bullock, an evangelist with the Open-Air Mission (OAM), that he could not hand out Christian literature in the city centre without their permission.
The council claimed it was exercising legal powers that came into force last year. The new powers are aimed at preventing litter from large numbers of handbills handed out by nightclubs and other businesses. However, Carlisle Council seemed unaware that these laws do not apply to religious literature.
The Christian Institute advised OAM director Andy Banton, who wrote to Carlisle Council pointing out that religious literature was exempt and asking for confirmation that Mr Bullock could continue his work. The council responded immediately with an unconditional apology.
OAM have asked for the religious exemptions (found in section 1(4) of Schedule 3 to the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005) to be brought to the attention of other council officials so that this unfortunate mistake is not repeated.
Andy Banton comments, ‘We are grateful to the Christian Institute for helping us … We appreciate the willingness of the council to admit its mistake and we are glad Keith can get on with his work of bringing the gospel to the people of Carlisle’