Christians throughout Britain have expressed outrage at the wrongful arrest of an elderly Christian minister in Uxbridge on Friday April 23. Pastor John Sherwood was handcuffed, led off and held overnight in a detention centre. His ‘crime’ was preaching from Genesis that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. And that there are only two sexes. He was arrested for a purported breach of s5 of the Public Order Act 1986. This was because three members of the public complained to the police that they had been offended by what he had said. However there is no offence under the Public Order Act unless threatening and abusive language is used. He was only released from the detention centre the following day after representations made by a Christian solicitor.
It appears that the police have learned nothing from the wrongful arrest of a Nigerian pastor in Southgate two years ago. We were then given assurances that freedom of speech would be respected. But this brutal false arrest and imprisonment give the lie to such statements. The police are now becoming the woke enforcers of an anti-Christian agenda. They arrest, unlawfully, those who are expressing politically incorrect views. Other offences are either left unprosecuted or handled with kid gloves. While violent crime in our cities is growing at an alarming rate.
This unlawful policing against such a soft target as a Christian pastor in his early seventies, who was simply expounding the bible, is a serious threat to free speech. It must stop. Police can only arrest people for breaking the law. Their powers of arrest end there. And they need to know what the law is. Freedom of expression is a vital and precious heritage of this nation’s Parliamentary democracy. Lord Justice Sedley, in the landmark ruling in Redmond-Bate v DPP, said – ‘Freedom to speak inoffensively is not worth having … From the condemnation of Socrates to the persecution of modern writers and journalists, our world has seen too many examples of state control of unofficial ideas.’ Those words are of abiding importance.
This country is, historically and constitutionally, a Christian country. That has been our strength. But that Christian foundation has been attacked and weakened. It will be a shameful tragedy if the agents of the state are allowed to become an anti-Christian enforcement agency. But Christians will continue to preach the gospel whatever the state does. The Christian faith was born of suffering. When the apostle Peter was forbidden to preach he refused to comply – ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’ Acts 5:29. But it is shameful that, in a so-called Christian country, believers are increasingly faced with that choice.