Friday 21 August 2009

Another street preacher arrested for preaching from Romans

The tireless activity of the Christian Legal Centre in defending people arrested for daring to read in public from the Bible continues. The Church of England Newspaper (CEN) reports today that Miguel Hayworth, a 29-year-old street preacher has been released on bail following his arrest on Monday morning in Maidstone, Kent.

Mr Hayworth gets around the country preaching in the streets. He had been given an initial warning by Manchester Police at the end of July having been approached by Officers in St Anne’s Square where he was threatened (that’s the word the CEN uses) with an arrest and given a warning that reading portions of scripture in public could be classed as an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The Police had received a complaint about his conduct being offensive and inciting racial and religious hatred. (Are there people dotted around the country ready to make complaints like this to the police?)

Mr Hayworth apparently has a particular vocation to preach from Romans 1-6. He was arrested in Maidstone for preaching from the same chapters as he was preaching from in Manchester.

The CEN says Romans 1 to 6 deals with sexual orientation. This is clearly wrong. St Paul’s letter to the Romans doesn’t deal with sexual orientation. Nowhere does the Bible deal with sexual orientation. St Paul is dealing with the behaviour of members of the Christian community in Rome, turning his argument in chapter 1 back on his readers.

Onn Sein Kon is the case worker from The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) dealing with Mr Haywoth’s case. Mr Kon says that: “Romans 1 to 6 is (Mr Hayworth’s) normal modus operandi but under the Human Rights Act, why should this be an offence at all?” Do street preachers have a ‘normal modus operandi’?

Andy Banton, General Secretary of the Open Air Mission, is reported as saying: “We got legal advice on this two years ago so preachers know their responsibilities before the law and their rights and as far as that is concerned, we’re free to preach the Christian message. The difficulty is that the legislation is very grey and open to interpretation, which invites mischief-makers.

In an extract from a letter stipulating the rights of Preachers, Ormerods Solicitors note that freedom of speech “includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative, provided it does not tend to provoke violence. “Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”

Mr Banton added: “So few people are attending church, under 10 per cent a week, so 90 per cent aren’t hearing the most important message in the world. We’re braving the fear and going into the public place.”

Changing Attitude agrees with the argument about freedom of speech. No doubt our message will be irritating, contentious, eccentric, heretical or unwelcome to some. I hope we are not teaching and preaching selectively but proclaiming the message of full inclusion for LGBT people in the context of the Gospels and the Christian message.

The problem for the CLC and the people it chooses to defend is that they are not preaching the most important message in the world, the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are preaching from passages condemning sexual activity between men. You might think they are obsessed about human sexual activity and especially same-sex activity.
I don’t know whether legally, reading Leviticus 18.22, 20.13, Judges 19.22-26, Deuteronomy 23.17-18, Romans 1.18-32, 1 Corinthians 6.9-10 and 1 Timothy 1.8-11 in public can be construed an offence. These verses are in the Bible, and I deal with them in the same way I deal with other offensive passages - those about dashing brains out and rejoicing over the killing of enemies.

I’m annoyed when bad translations are used, those which enhance the passages to read as condemnations of homosexuality (which is never an accurate translation in the first place).

These passages become problematic in public when they are read out of context and used to preach a message against lesbian and gay people (though the preachers would almost certainly use the word homosexual).

Changing Attitude argues that we are talking about different categories. Loving, faithful, adult same-sex relationships are not what any of the above passages in the Bible are referring to or describing. Therefore, I do find it offensive when I pass a preacher who is using these passages to condemn me and describes me as a homosexual. I’d prefer the Church to learn that condemnation of lesbian and gay people or faithful same-sex relationships is not found in the Bible.


  1. I too find it annoying when those translations are used and when the verses are used out of context - by which I mean the entire historical-cultural context in which they were written not just the place they happen to be in our compilation of the biblical texts. I was reading the US magazine Religion Dispatches and saw a piece referring to a tornado in Minneapolis at the time the Lutheran Church was debating its stand on full inclusion of LGBT in the church. One well known Baptist blogger called it a "gentle but firm reminder" from God about condoning sin and quoted from 1 Corinthians 6 using the ESV where the words "men who practise homosexuality" are used as if the original were that clear.

    My field is sociology of law and I'm not a lawyer so what follows is a personal opinion and not to be taken as legal advice.
    The laws on defamation (slander and libel) exist to protect individuals from unfounded accusations being made public. For a statement to be defamatory it must be untrue and must tend to alter the opinions of reasonable hearers to the detriment of the alleged victim. The defamed must be a person or a legal entity that has the status of person (such as a company or organisation).
    If you say that I am gay and if it were untrue and if it caused people to think badly of me then I would have a claim against you for damages and for an injunction preventing you from repeating the words.
    The point is that it is not enough for me to find what you say offensive, irritating or unwelcome. They must alter the opinions of others to my detriment.
    Since LGBT people as a group are not a legal entity, publishing things that would influence others to lower their opinion of LGBT people would not be actionable in defamation.
    That's why the state has stepped in to protect them. Incitement to hatred means what it says. To be convicted you have to be saying or writing something about certain classes of people that will tend to inspire hatred in the mind of a reasonable listener. It's not enough for the words to be offensive to the people described they must alter the opinion of those hearing in such a way as to cause them to feel hatred.
    Like Colin, I find this kind of preaching offensive but that's not enough. Does it make the person opposite feel hatred toward me and other LGBT people because of our orientation? If it does then the law should put a stop to it.
    Should I complain? Yes I think I should. It's then up to the courts to decide if an offence has been committed and what action to take.
    There's nothing to stop anyone from standing on a street corner and saying "The way I read the Bible I believe that two men shouldn't be in love." There's everything to stop them saying "God hates homosexuals - it says so in the Bible." Because if God hates me then the passer by has every reason to hate me too.
    Free speech has never been entirely free. The redress formerly limited to individuals has now been extended to include, among others, people of a minority sexual orientation.
    Get over it, anonymous and others.

  2. Sapphire
    "Does it make the person opposite feel hatred toward me and other LGBT people because of our orientation?"

    Presumably, the people who believe this nonsense and whose emotions will be roused are those who are already homophobic.

    It is extremely unlikely that a well adjusted person would walk past the street preacher and suddenly find that his words cause them to hate a group of people for whom he had previously not had negative feelings.

    But if the law speaks of "inciting" hatred, not "excasserbating" it, how could you ever prove such a charge?

  3. gosh is that all this blog does, have a pop at other christians and try to find ways to justify going after strange flesh?

  4. Owen and Eunice Johns found the support of CCFON invaluable in their fight for righteousness and the right for Christian civil liberty. CCFON has enabled and empowered the Johns to make a stand and maintain their Christian values in the face of challenging and undermining legalistic legislation. Over 2 years ago Owen and Eunice submitted an application to become foster carers. Due to the new Sexual Orientation Act of 2007 the Johns found themselves in a legal tangle with their local authority. This denied needy children, the opportunity, skills and experience the Johns had gained as previous foster carers for the same authority. The Johns had previously cared for over 15 children without any complaints or any issues relating to the newly formed act. The Johns feel that it is sad that organisations such as CCFON need to exist in order to protect the rights of Christians in this nation. You can help by supporting us in this fundraising event. We aim to raise awareness, raise funds, but most of all say a big thank you to those who work without fee for such a worthy cause.

    Blessings: Owen and Eunice

    Date: Friday 18th September 2009
    Venue: Heritage Hotel, Macklin Street, Derby. DE1 1LF

    Reception drinks 7.00 pm

    Price: £20.00

  5. "justify going after strange flesh"

    Thanks, that gave me the much needed giggle at the end of a long day!
    You guys really are priceless.

  6. Erika,

    Thereby hangs a tale.

    The offence is to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
    Theoretically I could incite the participants in a Pride parade to hatred of people who aren't LGBT. As with most discrimination legislation the law is intended to work in all directions but is far more likely to be used to protect LGBT people, just as the clauses on incitement to religious hatred can be used by Christians (apparently 70% of clergy have exoerienced actual or threatened violence on the grounds of their calling) but are more likely to be used minority religions.
    As I said, I'm not a lawyer. My study is the relationship between state and individual especially as mediated by the law. I described the intent of the hatred clauses as I understand them. Proof is a matter for Judge and Jury and the burden of proof is on the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
    In my lay opinion it will be difficult to get any prosecution to stick. How are you to find witnesses who can swear to having feelings of hatred incited in them by a particular speech and how can you prove that those feelings were not already there?
    Is it enough to show that ill-feeling was fanned into hate and how do you define hate? Some rap lyrics actually say "kill the fags" and there's at least one that says "kill the Christians". They have, rightly, been banned. The singers are overseas and can't be prosecuted. They are obvious examples of incitement to hatred and would have been actionable under much older laws outlawing incitement to commit a crime.
    The Association of Chief Police Officers advised that"any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any person" should be treated as a homophobic incident.
    The Police would investigate but there would have to a lot more evidence to make an arrest much less bring a successful prosecution. I don't think a court would consider the perception of the victim to be sufficient evidence.
    Sorry for the long winded response, Erika. In short, you're right. The law intends to provide protection whether it succeeds or not remains to be seen.

    Anon 2
    Fostering children is not a right and the Johns were not denied it. The Sexual Orientation Regulations (not an Act) were tagged on to existing discrimination laws to make discrimination on the grounds of orientation unlawful as well as age, gender, and race.
    It was the procedural tangle that ensued, which caused the problems for the Johns not the Regulations or their intention.
    I'm sorry. I can think of better uses for £20

    Anon 1 The blog is called Changing Attitude - it's about changing the attitude of Christians to those of us who are LGBT and Christian.

  7. gosh, how coy and how transparent...just hope you're happy and fulfilled and not wasting energy on us, when there are perhaps things in your own life, you know, more pressing...but if so, great. Incidentally, no-one says 'strange flesh' in real life except to mean celulite, and gay *always* meant queer.

  8. What exactly is your point about bible translations. Which translations do you reject? Which translations do you like? Is there any one translation which you consider deals with the passages you list correctly?

    As far as street preachers are concerned, I suspect they tend to use the AV and it's treatment of homosexuality is the least of the reasons for this choice.

  9. "Translations" is probably the wrong word. "Paraphrases" would be close. There are so many versions now that it's possible to pick and choose individual verses to match or at least reinforce your own thinking. Versions like the Message, the Street Bible, ESV and New Living have used the word "homosexual" to sum up what in the older translations, including the AV, is a much more complex description. A literal translation of some passages is impossible. For instance the Levitical passage would say something closer to "It is a forbidden ritual to lie with a man in the place of woman's lying down." That is not the same as "Do not be homosexual. God hates that."
    The AV uses "abomination" to translate a word that more closely means bad or forbidden ritual or ritually forbidden when it goes with man lying with man but omits the same word when it is used with wearing mixed cotton and linen.
    The point is that the oversimplified paraphrases make the texts read as something other than what they say. This oversimplification also completely ignores the historical context. The "Holiness Code" in Leviticus was most likely written during the Exile when Israel was in danger of "going native".

  10. Can you really, as (presumably) intelligent people, say with certainty that the holy scriptures do not spell out perdition for LGBT people.
    If so, you have found yourself decieved and in DENIAL and I do not mean the river in Egypt. The Bible is quite clear in it's interpretation of holy sexual conduct. LGBT is condemned and denounced as evil.
    However, God loves the homosexuals as much as the heterosexuals. Jesus died for all and it is God's will that all men and women be saved. God has an order for Bishops, Deacons, Husbands and wives and they are not to be changed. Even the natural order of the animals speak clearly to orientation. (The cows no better).