British police threaten street preacher with 'hate crime' charge for sharing Bible verses

A street preacher walks along Shad Thames on September 15, 2022, in London, England.
A street preacher walks along Shad Thames on September 15, 2022, in London, England. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

British police have escalated their actions against Christian street preachers in Uxbridge, London, threatening arrests over allegations of hate crimes and violations of anti-social behavior laws. The crackdown follows the enforcement of a Public Spaces Protection Order by the London Borough of Hillingdon, aimed at regulating activities in Uxbridge Town Centre.

The Metropolitan Police targeted Christian missionaries, including Pastor Dwayne Lopez, for preaching from the Bible on Uxbridge High Street, the U.K.-based group Christian Concern reported.

The incident, captured on video last week, was prompted by a public complaint about the content of their preaching, specifically citing verses from 1 Corinthians 6. The police cited the PSPO, questioning the preachers about their awareness of the order and its restrictions, including the prohibition of amplification.

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The confrontation was part of a broader pattern of incidents where Christian preachers faced police action for their activities in public spaces. Previously, gospel singer Harmonie London was ordered to stop singing “Amazing Grace” on Oxford Street, with police claiming that Christian music was not permitted outside church premises. The exchange between the officer and Harmonie was captured on video and the recording was uploaded to her YouTube channel.

This contrasts sharply with the police’s tolerance of mass antisemitic marches in London, where protestors called for “Jihad” without facing police intervention, Christian Concern pointed out.

The Telegraph said the altercation outside the Pavilions shopping center was filmed and shared on social media, attracting significant attention with over 71,000 views. The Metropolitan Police responded to allegations of racism and homophobia against the preachers, with officers on the scene emphasizing the seriousness of hate crime allegations and the potential for arrest if the street preachers refused to provide their personal details, such as name and address.

The Met Police said they were investigating public complaints about racist and homophobic comments. They reviewed body-worn camera footage from the officers involved, which showed the police explaining hate crime definitions to the group and inquiring about their discussions. Despite the tensions, no arrests were made during this incident.

Pastor Lopez, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, criticized the use of the PSPO to hinder Christian preaching, arguing that it was an unjust application of the law intended to suppress religious expression.

“The Bible is not a banned book. When King Charles was crowned last year, he swore an oath on the Bible, a book which we are now being repeatedly punished for preaching from. We preach the simple message that we are all sinners and that love, forgiveness and hope are found in Jesus,” Lopez said. “Our message is not a hateful message. People will always be offended by something, but being offended is not a crime. We want the police to support us now instead of using the PSPO to persecute us.”

The pastor added: “This was not an isolated incident and the police are persistently harassing us for preaching from the Bible in this area of London. The PSPO in Uxbridge is designed to intimidate us, shut us down and to prevent us from exercising our rights and freedoms. This is not about amplification, but the offense of the Cross. We stay polite and calm, but they often try to set traps to make us do something out of character. The mission of the church is to reach everyone with the Gospel. How we are being treated is unjust, but we are determined to continue to preach the Good News in Uxbridge.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, echoed these concerns. “The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in place in Uxbridge is being weaponized to shut down perfectly lawful activity. People are being taken off the streets for preaching from the Bible just because passers-by say they are offended. This amounts to a heckler’s veto and fundamentally undermines the freedoms we take for granted in this country. This should be a warning to us all. It is time to re-think the PSPOs.”

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