Last Friday, a 71 year-old Christian pastor was arrested and held in a police station overnight, after he was accused of making homophobic statements.
John Sherwood had been reading from the bible outside Uxbridge Station in London, when he was arrested and forcibly dragged off to the cells. Police said they had received complaints that he had been making homophobic statements and arrested him under the Public Order Act.
Under the act, a person can be detained for using abusive or insulting words that cause harm to someone else. Sherwood, who has been preaching for over thirty years, said that he hadn’t insulted anyone. He claims:
“I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence.
I was doing what my job description says, which is to preach the gospel in open air as well as in a church building. When the police approached me, I explained that I was exercising my religious liberty and my conscience.
I was forcibly pulled down from the steps and suffered some injury to my wrist and to my elbow. I do believe I was treated shamefully. It should never have happened.”
The Met Police said that someone had flagged down a patrol car and made the allegations against the pastor. As he was dragged away, onlookers were heard to shout that “this is a Christian country” and “he’s an old man, leave him alone.”
Though he was released without charge, this is incredibly chilling. Sherwood was arrested because he allegedly “offended someone.” He was deprived of his liberty for expressing his point of view.
If I was him, I would take the Met Police to court for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention. Police forces have taken up the policing of public attitudes. They’re doing it of their own volition too.
They seem to spend more time investigating so-called non-crime hate incidents, than dealing with real crimes. I don’t agree with the pastor when it comes to same-sex marriage. I have no issue with it whatsoever.
But it cannot be a crime to believe something that someone else finds offensive. Enough now.