The British newspaper, The Telegraph, on 2nd May, reported that Rev Dale McAlpine was charged with causing “harassment, alarm or distress” after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of “sins” referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships.
The 42-year-old Baptist, who has preached Christianity in Workington, Cumbria for years, said he did not mention homosexuality while delivering a sermon from the top of a stepladder, but admitted telling a passing shopper that he believed it went against the word of God. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/7668448/Christian-preacher-arrested-for-saying-homosexuality-is-a-sin.html)
McAlpine was approached by police officers, who told him it was illegal to preach against homosexuality.
“I’m stunned,” McAlpine said. “I’m just an ordinary, law-abiding Christian who wants to share his faith with the public.”
A minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, Rev Guido Kettniss (Charlton Street, Brisbane, Queensland) took the matter up with Chief Constable Craig Mackey at the British High Commissioner, Canberra. In a letter to Mackey Kettniss wrote:
I was horrified to learn that some of your constables are misusing their powers and falsely interpreting the Public Order Act, introduced in 1986. Also it should be clearly pointed out that one of your constables obtained a benefit in the arrest of Dale McAlpine, so that he could go on “in peace” in living a lifestyle which is condemned by God’s Word. How can a person who has a vested interest in silencing the Word of God on the question of homosexuality, be involved in arresting someone who has the right to the freedom of speech and the right to teach what the Bible teaches – surely there is a conflict of interest here. This arrest has caused the estimation of justice in England to plummet to an all time low. I trust that those involved in this arrest be stood down immediately, and a thorough investigation be held into this deliberate attempt to harass an individual who said things that were not to the liking of your police, but who had every right to say those things. Be sure that the world is watching, as England heads into the dark ages once again.”
To this letter, Mr Kettniss received the following reply (not the whole reply quoted here):
Dear Rev Kettniss
Thank you for your email enquiry.
The Crown Prosecution Service has carefully assessed the evidence in the case and has decided to discontinue the prosecution of Mr McAlpine.
We would like to reassure you that Cumbria Constabulary respects, and is committed to upholding, the fundamental right to freedom of expression. We are just as committed to maintaining the peace and preventing people feeling alarmed or distressed by the actions of others in public places. Our officers and staff often have to make difficult decisions whilst balancing the law and peoples human rights, this is not easy especially when on occasions opinions and interpretations differ.
There is always learning to be had and we will review the case to ensure all of our staff and officers have the opportunity to continue to develop their knowledge in the application of legislation in what are very often testing circumstances.
Go ahead, Christian soldier, take courage from these gentlemen. We have to work out who we will obey – God or the Caesar.