Those who obey the Great Commission to go and preach, are meeting increasing resistance. However, firm response often turns it in their favor. Premier Christian News in the UK has reported several incidents where police arrested street preachers instead of the hecklers that were attacking them.
Street evangelist Sean O’Sullivan was recently sharing the gospel with the crowds at Swindon Town Centre. Someone listening complained to the police that he was “causing religious and racially motivated harassment, alarm and distress by criticizing Muhammad and Buddha.”
Instead of protecting O’Sullivan’s free speech, he was charged with hate speech. Fortunately, a Christian legal defense organization, called Christian Concern, assisted him when he appeared at the Swindon Magistrates Court where he was found not guilty.
Another incident in London also ended well for the bold street evangelist. Hatun Tash was arrested and held for 24 hours after a group of Islamic men harassed her for speaking truth about Islam. She was taking her turn at the “Speakers Corner” in London’s Hyde park.
She says that when the officers ordered the Islamic group to leave the area, they “told the police to ‘go away’ and carried on intimidating Tash.” Then the police told her to leave. When she refused, she was arrested for “breaching the peace.”
The Christian Legal Centre took up her case and challenged the arrest on the grounds of wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment. They contended that the officers should, instead, have brought in back-ups to guarantee her safety.
A police review determined that the arrest was below the standards of the department. They issued an apology and awarded her 10,000 British pounds and costs. Tash summed it up: “The police have seen it as easier to remove me than deal with people intimidating and threatening me. By doing this, Sharia Law is ruling Speakers’ Corner rather than the law of the UK.”
Not every incident ends well, especially in countries without a history of freedom of speech. A court in Austria recently fined a woman who pointed out that Muhammad was a pedophile for consummating his “marriage” to a 9-year-old. When she appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, it upheld the conviction stating that she was “not exercising freedom of expression but was deliberately demonstrating that Muhammed was not worthy of worship,” considered hate speech.
Street evangelists in the US have been largely successful in protecting their rights with the help of Christian legal organizations. One victory was detailed in the September/October 2022 Battle Cry. As long as tracts are passed to people on a public park or sidewalk, police may threaten but have to back off when challenged with the Freedom of Speech clause in the U.S. Constitution.
The threat comes not only from aggressive Muslims but from hostile homosexuals. Both use the same tactics of harassment and threats of violence. They know that if they can scare the Christians into silent self-censorship it won’t matter what the Constitution says.
Sometimes it is more than just the threat of violence. Tash claims that last year she was actually stabbed by someone dressed as a Muslim.
You see the same spirit at work in another area. There have been several cases in the courts in the last few years where charges were levelled against Christian business people who refuse to provide services to celebrations that they consider to be sinful. Sometimes the courts have been complicit, leveling stiff fines or threats of jail time against the Christians.
In fact, at this time, the president just signed a law that critics say will put a very serious cloud over these freedoms.
Soul winners, we need to be bold getting the gospel out while we can.