Street Preacher Threatened With Arrest in UK

A street preacher in Manchester is at the centre of a dispute over freedom of speech after police threatened him with arrest saying reading certain Bible verses is “racist and homophobic”.

Miguel Hayworth, 29, was threatened by three police officers in London as he preached Christianity in the city at the end of July, the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported Saturday.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the director of the Christian Legal Centre who is representing Mr. Hayward told the paper, “They were clearly told that reading the Bible and preaching can be offensive and that they could be arrested.”

“Furthermore, they were subjected to abuse and intimidation. They were told that they were being monitored and filmed," she added.

Hayworth, a voluntary worker who is married with two children, has been a street preacher in the Manchester area for five years and he is often accompanied by his father.

He told the Telegraph that on 25 July he and his father had decided to preach from 11 a.m. at St Ann’s Square in Manchester instead of their usual place on nearby Market Street.

He was reading passages from the Old and New Testaments while his father distributed leaflets containing the message of the gospel.

Some passages in the Bible are regarded as homophobic. For example, sections read out by Mr Hayworth in St Ann’s Square included Romans Chapter 1 Verse 27, from the King James Bible, which says: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly…”

He also read from 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, Verse 9: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.”

Chief Inspector Chris Hill, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Police were called to St Ann’s Square in Manchester city centre following complaints from members of the public who considered the comments being made by two street preachers as racist and homophobic.

“When spoken to, the men said they were quoting from the Bible. The officers confirmed they were entitled to preach on the street, but advised them offensive behaviour is not acceptable.

“No one was arrested. I have received a letter from the Christian Legal Centre and will respond in due course,” the Chief Inspector said.

Critics claimed that a Muslim preaching his religion in the street would not have been treated in such a way by police.

The incident once again highlights a growing atmosphere of hostility towards Christians in the UK. Earlier this year Caroline Petrie, a Christian nurse, had been suspended from her job for offering to pray for an elderly patient’s recovery from illness. She was later reinstated.

Also, in June, a ComRes poll of Britain’s churchgoers found that Christians in UK believe they are being discriminated against and turned down for job promotion because of their faith. More than half of the 512 churchgoers interviewed in the ComRes poll for the Sunday Telegraph revealed that they had suffered some form of persecution for being a Christian.

:frowning: England disappoints me sometimes…

Me too. :frowning:

I don’t really see what the fuss is about here.

Members of the public complained to the police about their behavior, the police turn up and tell them that it was OK to preach but that offensive behavior wouldn’t acceptable.


Quite. What else were the police expected to do? Offensive behaviour isn’t acceptable in a public place, because it could lead to crowds and disorder, even fighting. Once a complaint had been made, the police had no choice.

“They were clearly told that reading the Bible and preaching can be offensive and that they could be arrested.”

Just have to quit reading those offensive passages from the bible.

Didn’t F.J. Sheed do public street preaching in the UK? Perhaps the times were more amenable the acceptance of controversy then.

In any case, I’m hoping the U.S. does not soon outlaw freedom of assembly or of speech, even controversial speech.

To be fair on the police, I have experienced few pastors in the UK ( especially in London) Who are very aggressive when reading the Word, They shout it scream in the public’s faces, point at people and work themselves up into crazy frenzies.

I have nothing against a street pastor, heck it takes a lot of Bravery to stand up and declare your faith, But you have to do it right. with the right attitude shouting 'your going to Hell at people isnt going to lead anyone to Christ

Yes, I agree. I have dealt with a number of street preacher types here in America, especially at my University I was attending. They can use flat-out terror tactics (i.e. telling people they will burn in Hell), intimidation and obnoxiousness and they tend to be extremely Anti-Catholic (I had one go on and on about the Church as the ‘Whore of Babylon’ and it infuriated me). So, truthfully, it is hard to shed a tear if the police want to strike back at these Evangelical Fundamentalist Anti-Catholic troublemakers.

I’d never heard of him so I made a guess and checked. He used to appear at a place called “Speakers’ Corner” where people get up and talk about whatever they want to talk about and people gather to row with them. If you go to places like that, you can expect that there will be somebody who will offend you one way or another and that’s very possibly the reason you’ve gone there in the first place.

There is no question of outlawing the guys in the story but, if they indulge in behavior likely to bring about a breach of the peace and people complain about it, the police have a duty to talk to them about it.

Rather like CAF, in a sense, where we’re allowed to be firm about our multifarious beliefs but will be reminded if we act uncharitably to one another.

Yes, I expect if they had the temerity to speak out about the Royal: adulteries and the untimely death of a princess they might end up in a dungeon and lose their heads…:rolleyes:

There’s no death penalty in the UK and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Acts preclude dungeons.

So now, preaching the gospel is considered hate speech in England?. I was in London in 1986 in a park across from Windsor Castle and there were preachers all over the park. People either listened, or kept walking. Now they are threatened with arrest and intimidated by being told they are being watched and filmed? This just points out the need for all people to pray daily that the message of Jesus Christ will be understood, accepted and lived. If not, this old earth will have hell to pay.

Well preaching the gospel isn’t considered hate speech at all, and you do get a lot of street pastors reading from the word etc who do it with tact and they are a pleasure to listen too, , Its just the police are cracking down on aggresive street pastors, who intimidate etc. Shouting aloud in the street homosexuals are going to burn in Hell,etc. and i for one think its about time, Christianity is about love an acceptance where we let God fix people, not the overly aggressive street pastor.

I do love your wry one-liners, Kaninchen!

Incidentally, do you think that the post to which you replied was meant to be serious?

If it was, how extraordinary.

And of coure it must not be forhotten that the law applies to non-Christian preachers, too. There are one or two Muslim preachers who have been in trouble with the police.

If we don’t want non-Christian preachers stirring up hatred against the West, which tends to equate with Christianity, the law against provoking a breach of public order has to apply to all.


Incidentally, do you think that the post to which you replied was meant to be serious?

If it was, how extraordinary.

I think it was a little bit of a sarcastic comment about naughty, naughty Brits - in which case a ‘straight faced’ response seemed the right thing. :slight_smile:

I’ve spent many years living in the UK and I’ve never seen any street preacher yelling and screaming at people.
But one needs to be careful of the police as was recently demonstrated at the G20 meeting where an innocent man was punched to death for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Or if your skin is dark and you look like you might be Asian when in fact you are a Brazilian engineer then that could be risky too !

Correction: SOME will be “reminded”, while others can do and say pretty much anything without anything happening…

Regarding this matter: It’s odd that reading from Scriptures is considered “offensive”. And as a previous poster said: If a muslim had preached in public, this would not have happened. Because the authorities would not have had the cojones to do it. But as long as it’s Christians, then all kinds of harassment goes.

So, basically your main problem is that they preach against the RC church, and THAT’s the reason you want to shut them up?
Or do you feel the same way about RCs acting in the same manner? Would you want them shut up as well, or is it only those you disagree with that cannot be allowed to speak?

Well, yes, it does irritate/bother/offend me when people insult the Catholic Church–and I don’t mean a theology disagreement/discussion, I mean just flat out insults (i.e. the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon kind of stuff). Also, these Fundamentalists types tend to quickly resort to threats of Hell and damnation, using tactics of terror and fear to try and suck people in.

At my university I attended, there was an area that was commonly called ‘free speech zone’ where people could talk their talk. There were Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Fundamentalist Evangelicals out there a lot. The JWs, Mormons and Muslims setup an area where they would pass out literature and talk to people. They were very polite and did not go up and try to scare people into accepting their faith. It was only the Fundamentalists (and I confess I used to be one and preached sometimes, but once I came to the realization that the Catholic Church was the True Church…oh boy…) that were loud, obnoxious and tried to scare people into faith. I have never had problems with any group accept Fundamentalists.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit