DUNDEE, Scotland — Police in Scotland have dropped all charges against an American evangelist who was arrested earlier this week for offending a single bystander by allegedly making ‘homophobic comments.’
As previously reported, Evangelist Tony Miano, a retired police officer from California, was arrested for breach of peace in Dundee, Scotland in January following a complaint that he had preached against homosexuality.
Miano had been preaching about the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ and about the nature of sin, including sexual sin, when a woman began to shout at him. The woman blurted out that her son was a homosexual before calling the police.
Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, who was present during the incident, said that Miano’s message did not center on homosexuality.
“Tony wasn’t focusing on homosexual practice; it was about all sin,” he explained. “A woman was yelling at him, and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.”
Williamson said that a council warden soon approached him and Miano and told them to move on, but also advised that what they were doing was not illegal.
Two police officers then arrived at the scene as Williamson and Miano were packing up. According to Williamson, the woman began shouting again so that the preachers would be arrested.
“The female officer saw that we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van,” Williamson said. “After Tony was put in the police van, I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for breach of peace and for using homophobic language.”
Miano was released the next day after being held in police custody overnight–28 hours after the arrest. He was to have appeared in court earlier this year, but prosecutors had not yet reviewed the video footage of the incident provided by Miano.
This week, the American evangelist was informed that he will not face any criminal charges.
“It took months for the prosecutors to view the footage despite our best endeavors from the very beginning to get them to do so,” Miano said in a statement. “When the prosecutors finally managed to get the video footage off my camera, they could plainly see that the accuser had made allegations about my speech that were simply untrue.”
“The prosecutors found nothing in my preaching that constituted ‘hate speech’ and came to the conclusion that they had no case against me. Had the officers who arrested me taken a few minutes to review the video footage, they would have seen what I have maintained all along,” he continued. “This has been a stressful time for my family.”
Miano said that he is still working to regain custody of his equipment and will be seeking advice on possibly filing a civil action against the Scottish police.
“This case shows yet again how confused the situation has become. A single passer-by can allege ‘hurt’ ‘offence’ and an innocent preacher gets arrested, taken to a cell and held for many hours,” commented Andrea Williams of Christian Concern, the organization that has been providing legal representation for Miano. “This has a deeply chilling impact on all of us; on our fundamental freedom to speak out about what we believe in for fear of ‘causing offence’ and being punished by the state for doing so.’”
“Clearly there is a pressing need for the Association of Chief Police Officers to work with those of us representing street preachers to come up with guidelines on ‘best practice’ for police services across the country to ensure that officers on the beat do not take away the fundamental freedom of Christians to do open air evangelism on the streets of the United Kingdom,” she said.