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New Street Preachers' Charter underway to bring clarity over freedom of speech rights

by Premier Journalist
dominic muir street preacher Credit Christian Legal Centre.jpg - Banner image

The Christian Institute is designing a new charter to foster understanding between police and street preachers on freedom of speech.

The arrests of street preachers have become more common in recent years, accused in many cases of hate crimes or causing public disorder.

Speaking to Premier, Ciaran Kelly, deputy director of staff and communications, said their hope is to bring some clarity about the rights and restrictions street preachers have when out evangelising.

"We want to set out legal rights and responsibilities in the criminal and civil law… we want a street preacher to be aware there might be legitimate restrictions. There might be a bylaw in place, for instance, or the very basic thing of not blocking the public highway…

“And it would also go beyond the law. [We will] say to them it's important to become reasonable, stick to what the Bible says. Always sensible to record what you are doing in case there's any complaints, perhaps later on.

“And then, having laid all that out, we want we'd like to get that endorsed by the police, see if you think of it as an agreement, or a common understanding between those who are sharing the gospel on the street, and based on who have a job to do."

Last week, Police Scotland paid substantial damages to a street preacher after he was wrongly arrested over a ‘hate-crime’ incident. Angus Cameron, who is Pastor of Cumnock Baptist Church, received £5,500 for unlawful detention by Police Scotland, as well as £9,400 in legal costs.

Commenting on Cameron’s case, Kelly defended him, saying he did not target individuals and only made an “in passing reference to marriage” which “somebody claimed to be offended to”.

He concluded: “It’s important that we recognise that culturally, we've imbibed this idea that all someone has to do is to claim to be upset or offended, then the law has been broken, and it's important that we push back against that and say, ‘No, that's not the case.’ That certainly was the case in Angus Cameron's case.

“And we shouldn't be fearful. We should not shrink back as Christians. Street preaching isn't for everybody, but we should be encouraging and supportive of those who go about it in the right way.”

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