Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Stephen Green, who heads a small but active lobby group called Christian Voice, is scheduled to appear before a Cardiff court on September 28, after pleading not guilty to a charge of "threatening, abusive or insulting behavior."
Although some Christian Voice campaigns and tactics have caused unease among some Christians, Green on this occasion won support.
The Evangelical Alliance, a 160-year-old group representing more than a million British evangelicals, said it was worried that the case may "erode" Christians' freedom to proclaim their faith, as well as freedom of speech and religious liberties.
It would be watching the Green case closely, the alliance said.
Green was arrested after allegedly refusing to stop handing out pamphlets to people arriving at a "Mardi Gras" event in the Welsh capital.
The leaflets he was handing out were entitled "Same-sex love, same-sex sex: What does the Bible say?"
The text, which is available on the Christian Voice website, included verses from Leviticus in the Old Testament and Romans in the New Testament, characterizing homosexual acts as sinful.
It also contained a basic gospel message, including the promise of God's forgiveness and eternal life for those who turn from their sins and "call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
Reports in homosexual media described the leaflets as "offensive" and "anti-gay."
Green was arrested by "Minorities Support Unit" of the South Wales Police. The force told London's Daily Mail that he had been arrested because of the content of the leaflets, not because he had behaved in an aggressive or violent manner.
In a statement, Green said although homosexuals may be upset by his message, "should the police have a partisan unit whose job is to round up Christian dissidents, treat them like thought criminals and trample on freedom of speech?"
After his first appearance, he said the case appeared to have "struck a chord" among British Christians.
"They, like me, are fed up with seeing the police engaging in crude social engineering, going around trying to intimidate Christians into silence. Our faith requires us to preach the gospel."
Writing in the Daily Mail earlier, columnist Melanie Phillips wondered how long it would be before Christianity was outlawed in Britain.
"The Bible is the moral code that underpins our civilization. Yet the logic of the police action against Mr. Green surely leads ultimately to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible itself is 'hate speech' and must be banned."
Phillips cited other recent incidents, including one late last year in which an author on children's rights was contacted by London police after she said during a radio interview that same-sex couples were not ideal adoptive parents.
The police said they were following up a complaint about a "homophobic incident." No criminal charge was laid against author Lynette Burrows, who described the episode as "sinister."
Earlier this year, the British government proposed the introduction of new "sexual orientation regulations" which have prompted concern among Christians.
The move aims to outlaw "homophobic" discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services.
Critics argued that the regulations could pressurize Christians to compromise their beliefs.
"A bookshop would be as happy to sell a Bible to a homosexual as to anyone else," said the pro-family Christian Institute in a briefing on the regulations.
"But should the law force Christian BB [bed-and-breakfast] owners to give homosexuals a double bed? Should it become illegal for a church to refuse to hire out its hall to gay rights activists?"
The Christian Institute said the regulations would also be applicable in schools, where they could be used by homosexual campaigners to stop Christian organizations' activities among students.
See earlier story:
UK Christians Say New Sexual Orientation Rules Undermine Their Beliefs (Jun. 08, 2006)
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