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A Christian rights group in Great Britain has called on the chief of Scotland Yard to issue guidelines clarifying whether Christians have free speech rights, following the arrest of a street preacher in London earlier this month.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) has called on Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, to issue guidelines to his officers, clarifying that Christians are protected legally by free speech rights when quoting scripture relating to homosexuality being a sin.
The request comes after Tony Miano, a former deputy sheriff from Los Angeles, Calif., was arrested in Wimbledon, South London earlier in July for allegedly preaching about homosexuality as a sin, quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, which focuses on "sexual immorality." Miano was reportedly detained by police for seven hours, during which time he was questioned about his views on homosexuality and DNA tested.
Miano said in a YouTube video following his arrest that the police found him in violation of the Public Order Act Section 5 for "using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult," although he was ultimately released without charge.
The Christian Legal Center is now requesting in a letter submitted to Hogan-Howe that the free speech rights of Christians are protected.
According to The Telegraph, which has viewed the letter, Andrea Williams, director of the CLC, argues that although the police arrested Miano for "insulting" language, they neglected to arrest a passerby who yelled an expletive at the street preacher.
"We formally request that you issue guidance to all officers immediately that the Bible message on the 'sin of homosexuality' is lawful," Williams wrote in the letter, adding that currently, the "police appear to enforce the law to silence the viewpoint that homosexual conduct is a sin."
"This conduct by the police is unlawful and amounts to a systemic pattern of discrimination against Christians," Williams continued.
Williams added that the goal of the legal group is to see Scotland Yard set forth clear authority regarding the protection of free speech for Christians.
"We would like to see clear guidance from the Metropolitan Commissioner that Christians preaching from the Bible that homosexual conduct is sinful is lawful free speech," Williams said. "Free speech is under threat and we need to protect it. We hope that the Commissioner will take a lead in this."
Miano said following his arrest that although policemen singled him out for preaching on homosexuality, the sermon he delivered the day of his arrest was focused on all sexual immorality. Miano also argued that although he has been portrayed as only preaching about homosexuality, he seeks to preach about all sins.
"This idea that open air preachers only preach about homosexuality is fallacious. We talk about all forms of sin. We usually take people through the Ten Commandments. We explain to people that no liar, no thief, no fornicator, no blasphemer, no homosexual, will enter into the kingdom of God [...] I can assure you that I have offended more people by quoting Revelation 21:8 than I have by suggesting that homosexuality is a sin," Miano told Christian radio talk show host Frank Sontag during a segment on KKLA, as previously reported by The Christian Post.
The CLC, which is representing Miano, added in the letter that there have reportedly been at least 16 cases of Christians being arrested for expressing their beliefs on homosexuality in the past 11 years in Britain. The Christian legal group has announced that it will launch legal proceedings against Scotland Yard if it does not issue guidelines protecting the free speech rights of Christians.