PERTH — 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.
“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.
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