BASILDON, England — A Christian street preacher was arrested and jailed last week in England after he was accused by a lesbian bystander of engaging in hate speech against homosexuals.
The incident occurred on Thursday while evangelist Rob Hughes was preaching on the streets of Basildon, Essex.
As he spoke, Hughes was approached by police, who advised that they had received a complaint that Hughes had engaged in hate speech by preaching against homosexuality. Police advised that such speech was a violation of the Public Order Act, Section 5, which bans “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior” or the display of “any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting” within earshot of sight of a person “likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
As Hughes was interviewed by police on street, his friend, Andrew Noble, was also interrogated by officers.
“Did you say that homosexuality is sinful?” Noble remembers the police inquiring.
“I don’t think we said that today, but it is something that we would say,” he replied.
Noble told Christian News Network that a lesbian bystander had lodged a complaint against Hughes’ speech and falsely accused him of speaking against homosexual behavior.
Hughes was arrested on the street and transported to the local jail, where he was then fingerprinted and held in a cell. In the meantime, Noble contacted the Christian legal organization Christian Concern to request emergency assistance.
Seven hours later, at nearly midnight, Hughes was released and the charges were dismissed. Hughes told Christian Concern that Christian street preachers are facing a situation where they are now becoming “presumed guilty until found to be innocent.”
“This is happening alarmingly often now,” Andrea Williams, president of the organization, stated in a news release announcing Hughes’ arrest. “Rob’s experience shows why it’s so important that we at the Christian Legal Center keep giving legal support to Christians like him who simply want to share the good news of Jesus.”
As previously reported, a similar incident occurred in July of this year as American evangelist Tony Miano was arrested and jailed after speaking against sexual immorality on the streets of London. Miano states that he was preaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 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. He was placed under arrest and marched down to the police station where the was then questioned 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.”
Like Hughes, Miano was released near midnight and went back out on the streets to preach the following day.