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.