Scottish Street Preacher Arrested For ‘Breach of the Peace’ Over ‘Illegal’ Gospel Message

Williamson fbPERTH — A street preacher in Scotland was arrested this week for ‘breach of the peace’ and advised that the content of his sermon was illegal after an anonymous bystander complained to police about his activities.

Josh Williamson of Perth states that he was preaching from Scripture about man’s enslavement to sin when he was taken into custody, interrogated and later released with the warning to stop open-air preaching.

The incident occurred on Wednesday as Williamson decided to conduct a street outreach in his community after spending time with his family. In a blog post outlining the matter, Williamson explains that he began by distributing tracts and speaking with passersby just before noon, and then proceeded to deliver a sermon from John 8.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin,” the Scripture text, the words of Christ, read. “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

“My emphasis was one: truth, slavery, and freedom. I spoke about how Christ is true, and we can trust His words,” Williamson recounted. “I preached on how we are all enslaved to sin, and how it is only by Jesus Christ that we can be free.”

He said that at this point, some of those that began to gather mocked his message and spewed profanities.

Minutes later, a police van pulled up and parked in the area where the crowd had assembled. As Williamson continued to preach, an officer approached and ordered him to stop preaching.

  • Connect with Christian News

“I asked him what law I was breaking, and he replied that I was in breach of the peace,” he stated. “When I asked him to explain, he pointed to my mp3 recorder and said I was too loud. … I then asked him what a reasonable sound level would be. The police officer replied that the noise level isn’t the issue, but rather that a complaint had been made. I tried to reason with the officer, explaining that such argumentation is subjective as anyone can claim anything is too loud.”

During this time, a bystander spoke up and urged the officer to allow Williamson to continue preaching. When the officer shoved him away, the man turned to the crowd and began speaking about the importance of freedom and civil liberty.

williamson ws
Williamson

The police again contended to Williamson that he must discontinue preaching, to which he replied that he was not in violation of the law.

“At this the officer said, ‘If you do that I’ll arrest you,'” Williamson recalled. “My answer was, ‘I guess you had better arrest me then, as I’m not breaking the law.’ With this the police officer placed me under arrest for breach of the peace.”

The man who had been addressing the crowds about civil liberties during this time was also taken into custody for breach of the peace.

Moments later, a female officer reiterated to Williamson that he was under arrest. He remarked that he was surprised by her response to his inquiry as to what law he had violated.

“It was at this point she told me that the content of my message was illegal. I found this amazing, since I was only preaching the Gospel,” he stated. “She also said people had accused me of swearing at those in the crowd. I pointed out that was a lie, and that I have an mp3 recording of the whole open-air.”

Williamson was later transported to the local police station and was interrogated, but the preacher refused to speak when officers declined his request to record the interview and/or allow legal representation to be present.

“Towards the end of my interview, the officer said to me, ‘You seem reasonable. Why don’t you just stop preaching?'” he remembered. “I replied by saying, ‘Let me ask you a question, is it better to obey man or God?'”

Williamson was then released, but with the warning that if he continued preaching, he would be arrested and interrogated again.

“Praise God the Gospel went forth despite the opposition,” he wrote on his blog Wednesday. “Please pray for us!”

Main photo: Facebook/Josh Williamson Ministries


A special message from the publisher...

Dear Reader, our hearts are deeply grieved by the ongoing devastation in Iraq, and through this we have been compelled to take a stand at the gates of hell against the enemy who came to kill and destroy. Bibles for Iraq is a project to put Arabic and Kurdish audio Bibles into the hands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees—many of whom are illiterate and who have never heard the gospel.Will you stand with us and make a donation today to this important effort? Please click here to send a Bible to a refugee >>

Print Friendly
  • Spike Allibone

    So, can you take issue on “wrongful arrest” I wonder? Police harassment is a relevant issue and I’m sure there is a standard course of action in these incidents – and, since there is recorded evidence, the Police Complaint Commission would surely look into the case to see if the officers were acting correctly.

    It seems that, though rather unusual for them, the Police themselves changed their story several times during the procedure and were therefore unclear and inconsistent. If you are a victim of Police harassment, then they need to apologise to you for mistreatment.

    Stopping freedom of speech in this country is a powerful issue, and the Police need to account for their actions in order to redress this incident.

  • R M Walker

    He was very sensible to have a digital recording of his preaching. Not only will this give evidence of the content of his message, but also it would record any abuse from the crowd. (The police seem to ignore breach of the peace if it involves swearing abusively at a preacher.) Also, it enables the initial conversation with the police to be on record – I note the police refused to allow him to record the conversation in the police station or let him have a legal representative present.

    However, I would advise having TWO recording devices. I have heard of other cases, not involving preachers, where phones have mysteriously been damaged and the recording lost.

    Given that Scotland now has one police authority it might be in order for the churches to ask for clear guidelines on public preaching. It seems that unsubstantiated accusations from any one anonymous bystander give police the right to intervene. This is an open invitation for secularists.

  • http://vernonstanbridge.com Vernon Stanbridge

    There is an irony here that seems to have escaped the police officers who arrested preacher Josh Williams, and that is that there is another preacher of the Gospel whom the Scots revere and have made their patron saint, namely: St Andrew. Would they arrest him if he were alive and preaching in the streets of Perth today?!