They gave us the Beatles, punk rock, and Monty Python; but hopefully the UK won’t give us their hate speech laws. For those who thought our friends across the pond were all about free speech, you are sorely mistaken. In parts of the British Isles you can now be arrested simply for preaching.
Late last month a Baptist street preacher named Dale McAlpine was sharing the Gospel in Cumbria and got himself arrested by saying homosexuality is a sin. Sexuality was not the main subject of his preach; he simply answered some questions about it in a polite matter. The UK Telegraph reports:
“During the exchange, he says he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness. After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO [Police Community Support Officer] who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to Mr. McAlpine and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language. The street preacher said he told the PCSO: “I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator.”
The officer (who is openly homosexual) then had McAlpine arrested for breaking the “Public Order Act,” which says you can be thrown in jail for using abusive or insulting language. This case is bigger than just McAlpine and this one incident. Religious liberty is being pulled away from British citizens and, to make matters even worse, we could see similar developments soon in other parts of Europe and even here, in the United States.
“This arrest is more than a news event — it is a signal of things to come and an announcement of a new public reality. Even if all charges are dropped against this preacher, the signal is sent and the message is clear. The act of Christian preaching is now a potential criminal offense.” -Dr. R. Albert Mohler
Laws like the one in UK could lead to arrests just for reading Scripture. Take 1 Corinthians 6 for example:
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Is that now hate speech? Is it going to be a punishable offense to simply read the Bible out loud? And if so, how should pastors and other believers respond?
I think we find our answer in Acts 4. The Apostles Peter and John were arrested and then released with the command that they must stop speaking the Word of God.
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
Now more than ever, we must fight against laws that restrict the freedom speech and the free practice of religion. Our Constitution demands it. But if that battle is ever lost, Christians must never fear speaking God’s “word with great boldness.”