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Free speech is our freedom to preach the gospel

January 2020 | by Mike Judge

Free speech is more than just a civil liberty. For us as evangelicals, it’s our freedom to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we welcome the settlement between Cumbria Police and street preacher Dale Mcalpine.

Yes, there are some cranky street preachers out there who make us all wince. But many are decent, faithful, and courageous. When they are falsely arrested and detained, it is right and proper that the authorities are made to apologise publicly for the injustice. Is this not what the apostle Paul did in Philippi?

Yet the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Once again police officers appear to have overstepped the mark. This time at Speaker’s Corner of all places – that bastion of freedom of expression. What were they thinking?

Roland Parsons, Marble Arch, for illustration purposes only
see image info

Whether or not Roland Parsons’ style of evangelism is your cup of tea, ordering him to remove his banners – when he has been going there with them for over 20 years – does seem like an over-reaction by the authorities.

More troubling still is the imposition of an exclusion zone around one Birmingham school to stop parents objecting to new LGBT lessons being imposed on children. It is even more worrying that the city council also tried to ban parents from posting certain comments on social media.

A majority of the protestors are Muslim, and according to reports some of the protesting has been nasty. We do not defend that. But a court-imposed zone in which nobody – not even the most mild mannered of concerned parents – can voice objections to the indoctrination of their children is deeply concerning.

This is why we need to pay attention to the example of the apostle Paul in Philippi. When the authorities realised they had treated him unjustly they wanted to release him without a fuss. He refused to go quietly. He made them come down to the jail and escort him out publicly. We need that courage and that wisdom today.