LONDON — An American evangelist was arrested and jailed this week in London during the Wimbledon Championships while preaching about sexual immorality on the streets.
Sports Fan Outreach International, led by Bill Adams, has been hosting an evangelistic effort in England over the past week to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with attendees of the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament. Approximately a dozen or more men and women are on the streets preaching, distributing tracts and engaging in one-on-one conversation with spectators.
Tony Miano, a retired police officer who traveled to the UK with the team, states that he was preaching about sexual immorality from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 on Monday when a woman became agitated by his message and began to curse.
“[I preached about] the fact that people are in sin and are violating God’s word and His law by engaging in immorality — both heterosexual immorality and homosexual immorality,” he explained.
Since he had included homosexuality in his sermon, the woman, who had gone into a nearby store and came out to find Miano still speaking, called the police to complain.
Moments later, officers arrived and notified Miano that he had allegedly violated Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which prohibits public language that is threatening or insulting.
“The words that the police officers used was that I was guilty of using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult,” Miano explained in a video blog about the incident. “I tried to explain to the officers that there is nothing homophobic about my speech because I am not afraid of homosexuals — that I love homosexuals enough to want to bring them the truth of the Gospel.”
Miano was then told that he was under arrest and was asked to follow the officers uncuffed to the police station, which was five minutes away from where he was standing. The evangelist states that he was booked, photographed and fingerprinted, and police also took a DNA sample to ensure that he was not a wanted criminal.
Miano outlined that he was later questioned meticulously by a detective about his beliefs.
“It was surreal because I was interrogated about my faith in Jesus Christ,” Miano said. “I was asked if I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I was asked what portion of the Bible I was reading. I was asked if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to me, would I give them something to eat.”
Police then concluded by asking Miano whether he believed he did anything wrong, and if he would make similar statements again when released. Miano replied by contending that he had done nothing unlawful, and that he would indeed preach the same message again if he felt led to do so by the Lord.
After the detective and Miano’s attorney — Michael Phillips of Christian Concern — spoke, Phillips returned with bad news.
“He said that my answer to the last two questions basically sealed the deal — that they were going to go forward with prosecution [and] that I would be in jail likely for 24 hours,” he explained. “And then I would appear before a judge … [who] would order me to remain in the country until the trial was completed, which could take 4 to 5 months.”
Miano was then escorted back to his jail cell where he believed he would be spending the night. He began preaching and singing in his cell, and also asked his attorney if he could have a copy of the Bible. Miano said that after he received the Scriptures, he turned to the Book of Acts and began to find “great comfort” in the stories of the apostles who were also jailed for their bold preaching.
However, much to his surprise, after some time, the detective came to his cell to inform him that there had been a change of plans.
“He said, ‘The inspector has decided to release you with no further action,'” Miano recalled, shocked by the news.
He was released near midnight after being behind bars for approximately seven hours.
“Today, we’re heading down to the same place where I was arrested,” Miano advised in a video blog this morning. “The emphasis [of my sermon] will be how Great Britain like America has forfeited the soul of the nation.”
He concluded his blog by noting that he believes that America is not far behind the United Kingdom in regard to the criminalization of Christianity.
“I was interrogated because I was a Christian. Again, it was surreal,” he stated, shaking his head. “It’s coming. It’s coming to the United States. No doubt about it, the day is coming when Christians will be arrested not only for what they say, but for what they believe.”