Street preachers' 'harassment' case dropped after preaching from 1 Corinthians 6:9

John Dunn
John Dunn | Christian Concern

In Somerset, England, a legal battle involving two street preachers accused of causing harassment and anti-social behavior while sharing biblical beliefs on LGBT issues ended as the Crown Prosecution Service dropped all charges.

The case centered on the preachers' rights to express their religious beliefs publicly and concluded without a conviction.

John Dunn and Shaun O'Sullivan, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, faced potential criminal charges after their June 2023 arrest in Glastonbury for preaching that homosexuality and transgenderism are incompatible with the Bible.

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The incident, which led to their arrest by officers donning rainbow lanyards, sparked controversy over the enforcement of section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. While preaching, an officer challenged their reference to the officer's gender.

The duo was set to be convicted at Taunton Magistrates' Court, but the CPS withdrew, citing a lack of evidence, the rights group Christian Concern announced Wednesday.

The decision came after the preachers' defense argued that their actions were protected under Articles 9 and 10 rights, which protect religious freedom and speech expression. The court, led by District Judge Angela Brereton, dismissed the case and ordered the state to reimburse the preachers' legal and travel expenses.

The backdrop of this case includes broader societal tensions, notably reflected in anti-Israel protests that took place in London in recent months. According to Christian Concern, calls for "jihad" and and destruction of Israel were reportedly unchallenged by police. This context of perceived selective law enforcement was criticized by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as indicative of "mob rule."

O'Sullivan and Dunn, known for their Evangelical activities across the United Kingdom, shared their Christian message in Glastonbury on June 8, 2023.

Their journey to street preaching is marked by personal transformations, with Dunn being a throat cancer survivor and former Special Forces operative and O'Sullivan turning to Christianity after overcoming drug addiction and criminality.

The preachers were preaching outside "The Sons of Asguard Witchcraft Emporium" store, which promoted LGBT flags and sold "magical apothecary." According to Christian Concern, the preachers gave out leaflets and preached from 1 Corinthians 6:9.

The passage details how "the unrighteous," including those who engage in sexual immorality, "will not inherit the Kingdom of God." This led to confrontations with the public and police, with allegations of causing "harassment, alarm, and distress."

The preachers contested these claims, pointing to a bias in police response, especially when compared to the treatment of other ideological expressions in the public sphere.

The incident escalated when the preachers refused to cease their activities, leading to their arrest under the alleged threat of breaching the peace. The police justified their action as a response to complaints about the preachers' messages, which were claimed to include offensive statements against homosexuals.

Following the court's decision, Dunn criticized the police's approach as disproportionate and indicative of a broader issue of biased law enforcement.

"When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible," he said. "It is very disconcerting when you are approached by police officers accusing you of a 'hate crime' for allegedly being 'homophobic' and they have rainbow lanyards around their necks. It does not give any confidence that the lawful expression of Christian beliefs on these issues will be respected or defended."

O'Sullivan said, "It cannot be right that terrorist sympathisers are acting with impunity on U.K. streets, and yet we face being convicted for expressing our Christian beliefs from the Bible. I meant it when I said that we were there because we love the people of Glastonbury and wanted them to know the Good News of Jesus Christ."

Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, defended the tradition of open-air preaching in the U.K., asserting the need to protect such religious expressions.

"John and Shaun are passionate about reaching the public with the Christian faith that has transformed their lives," she said. "They were well within their rights to preach and to continue preaching on Glastonbury High Street without being forced to move on or fearing arrest. It is not an offense if someone is offended by the truth of the Bible. The police must be impartial and uphold the law, not LGBTQI+ identity politics."

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