Case dropped against street preachers who refused to stop preaching

Street preacher John Dunn being handcuffed.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped a case against two street preachers who were arrested after refusing to stop preaching on Glastonbury High Street.

John Dunn and Shaun O’Sullivan were arrested last June under section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 following complaints made by members of the public. 

The two men, who are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), had been handing out leaflets and preaching against same-sex sexual practice and transgenderism from 1 Corinthians 6:9. 

The CLC said that one officer at the scene was wearing an ‘ask my pronouns’ badge. 

When Mr O’Sullivan referred to one of the officers as a man, the officer said to him: “I am going to challenge that as you don’t know whether I am a man or a woman, I’m a person, ok.”

When the preachers asked what laws they had broken, the officers said they had received complaints that their preaching had caused “harassment, alarm and distress”. They also told the men that “we might need to remove you to prevent a breach of the peace”. 

When Mr O’Sullivan asked what it was that had caused offence, an officer replied, “I understand you were saying stuff from the Bible that is controversial … at the moment I want that to stop,” to which Mr O’Sullivan says that he will not stop preaching even if he is arrested. 

Later in the exchange, Mr O’Sullivan is told that a complaint has been made that he allegedly likened homosexuals to paedophiles, which he denied saying. 

Both men were arrested after refusing to stop preaching and leave the area. 

After the CPS decided to take the case forward, a hearing was held at Taunton Magistrates’ Court this week that could have led to both men being convicted.

The case was dropped after the CPS failed to offer evidence for the charges and the judge awarded the street preachers their legal fees and travel costs. 

Shaun O’Sullivan became a Christian and friends with Mr Dunn after previously heckling his preaching in Swindon.(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

Following the hearing, Mr Dunn expressed his concerns about free speech for Christians.

“The response from the police was completely disproportionate and a clear example of the two-tier policing that is rife on our streets right now,” he said. 

“When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible. It is very disconcerting when you are approached by police officers accusing you of a ‘hate crime’ for allegedly being ‘homophobic’ and they have rainbow lanyards around their necks.

“It does not give any confidence that the lawful expression of Christian beliefs on these issues will be respected or defended.”

Mr O’Sullivan said: “We are determined to fight for justice on this matter. It cannot be right that terrorist sympathisers are acting with impunity on UK streets, and yet we face being convicted for expressing our Christian beliefs from the Bible.

“I meant it when I said that we were there because we love the people of Glastonbury and wanted them to know the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, called for police impartiality.

“Christian open-air preaching has a long and respected history in this country and must be protected and defended at all costs,” she said. 

“John and Shaun are passionate about reaching the public with the Christian faith that has transformed their lives. They were well within their rights to preach and to continue preaching on Glastonbury High Street without being forced to move on or fearing arrest.

“It is not an offence if someone is offended by the truth of the Bible. The police must be impartial and uphold the law, not LGBTQI+ identity politics.”

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