When did preaching become a crime?

Overzealous policing is a threat to our hard-won liberties.

Tom Colsy

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Topics Free Speech UK

A viral video has emerged of two police officers approaching and hectoring an African man outside Southgate Underground station in London. In the clip, the two policemen arrest him for what appears to be nothing more than preaching. At one point, the preacher suggests that the officers’ lives would be improved if they followed the teachings of ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’. What unfolds should concern anyone who believes in religious tolerance and freedom of speech. The police constrain and arrest the preacher. They remove the Bible from his hands as he is put into handcuffs.

The arrest appears to be totally unwarranted. The police behave aggressively and at one point, accuse him of being ‘racist’, but it is unclear what this refers to. Nothing that the preacher says in the clip suggests that he is racist or even particularly radical. One of the policemen says he is arresting him for a ‘breach of the peace’. But what possible threat does a Christian street-preacher pose to public safety? Police resources should surely be allocated to more pressing issues.

This kind of overzealous policing threatens our hard-won liberties. It should go without saying that the state should not prevent people from publicly conversing with others. The man was preaching in a public square. He should be free to do so. The public should be free to listen to him, agree with him, take issue with him or simply ignore him.

Fortunately, the preacher has since been ‘de-arrested’ by the Metropolitan Police as he had no case to answer. But after an experience like that, he might now think twice about exercising his right to speak his beliefs in future – as might the millions of others who watched the video.

The handcuffing and manhandling of an innocent preacher is a worrying sign of British society’s turn against free speech and religious freedom.

Tom Colsy is a writer. Follow him on Twitter: @tomcolsy99_.

Picture by: YouTube.

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