Charges against two Christian street preachers have been dropped after they were both arrested by police whilst preaching in Basildon and Hereford respectively.
Rob Hughes (38) was arrested on 4th September 2014 whilst preaching in Basildon, Essex following an exchange with a member of the public who accused Mr Hughes of using homophobic and offensive language. The young lady in question had earlier confronted Mr Hughes shouting that she was “gay and proud” then proceeding to tell him to “get down off your pedestal, you judgmental xxxx. Homophobia is not in this town.”
Mr Hughes, who had been preaching for 15-20 minutes, explained that he had said nothing about the issue of homosexuality and asked that her request not to be judged be extended also to him.
Despite having a recording of everything he had said whilst preaching, Mr Hughes was arrested and held in custody for 11 hours. He was later released shortly before midnight and informed that no further action would be taken due to insufficient evidence.
Mr Hughes, whose case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, said: “I never intended to cause distress to anyone. However, some people take offence very easily even when certain topics haven’t been preached on. I preach the gospel, which means good news and the love of God for all, which he has shown us through the death of his Son.”
Mr Hughes has now received £2,500 and a contribution towards his legal fees for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of his human rights as part of an out-of-court settlement.
More recently, street preacher Andrew Geuter had been informed that all charges against him have been dropped.
Mr Geuter was arrested on 23 April 2015 following a complaint made by a shop owner who said that Mr Geuter’s ‘homophobic’ comments were offensive. Mr Geuter, who has preached in Hereford for many years without any trouble or complaints, had been preaching on the Christian definition of marriage arguing that the present Government has destroyed marriage in its determination to redefine marriage to include relationships between people of the same sex.
Following the complaint Mr Geuter was asked by the police to move on and stop preaching but he refused to do so. At this, he was arrested and taken to the police station.
Having considered his case, the CPS decided to drop the charges on 11 May 2015 again due to insufficient evidence.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and founder of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “These cases are further examples of situations where the freedom of Christian preachers is restricted, when what they are saying is entirely lawful. In Mr Hughes’ case, he was not even talking about sexuality and yet was targeted by a member of the public who tried to shut him down.
“The police officer involved with Mr Geuter’s case wanted him not to preach the words of Jesus after one complaint was made about him expressing his opinion about the destruction of marriage by the government.
“We are delighted that these two men, who fearlessly speak the good news of Jesus on our streets, can walk free. We are grateful that there has been some recognition that the police got it wrong in Mr Hughes’ case, but more still needs to be done to ensure that freedom of speech is upheld.
“The Christian Legal centre has been calling for over two years for the Association of Chief Police Officers to draw up national guidelines to protect freedom of speech for Christians in this area and yet nothing has been done. In the meantime, we will continue to support Christians in their right to preach the gospel to everyone without fear.”