THE establishment pays lip service to Christianity, parading on special occasions in cathedrals and producing ‘safe’ Christian programmes such as Songs of Praise. But when it runs into unabashed Christianity prepared to deny progressive pieties, the mask slips. There is growing alienation between Christians holding a biblical worldview and the establishment in our increasingly secular society.
Video of the arrest of Oluwole Ilesanmi, a street preacher in Wood Green, north London, has gone viral. Arrests of street preachers for causing offence have become routine. This instance reveals the underlying prejudices of the establishment.
A Christian preacher this afternoon was arrested at Southgate station London N14 for preaching about Jesus . @CConcern the police told him it’s because public had said he was being islamophobic . We have the full video and wondered when preaching was now illegal ? @Campaign4T pic.twitter.com/ZxC1DhlZCf
— EyeOnAntisemitism (@AntisemitismEye) February 23, 2019
Mr Ilesanmi was arrested by police under Section 5 of the Public Order Act for ‘using threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour . . . within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress’.
During his sermon he argued there was a connection between terrorism and the text of the Quran. Two white non-Muslim political activists approached and accused him of preaching lies, and of being Islamophobic. He responded that the Bible speaks the only truth and that people need to give their lives to the Lord Jesus. Mr Ilesanmi was reported to the police for supposed Islamophobia.
Most commentators have focused on the initial attempt to stop Mr Ilesanmi from preaching. However, the most chilling part of the video comes almost unnoticed at the very end.
As the police handcuff and arrest Mr Ilesanmi, they rip his Bible from his hands.
Mr Ilesanmi pleads, ‘Don’t take my Bible away. Don’t take my Bible away.’
The police officer replies, ‘You should have thought about that before being racist!’
The handcuffed preacher is then marched off. He was later released without charge.
Many have pointed out the double standards employed by the police. The Metropolitan Police is the force which provided protection for hate-preacher Abu Hamza when he addressed hundreds of followers outside Finsbury Park mosque, later notorious as a haven for terrorists.
Others have focused on the importance of free speech for society. Unless we are free to say things others might find offensive, free speech is meaningless and conformity is enforced. An increasing number in Britain find the gospel offensive. Christians are obliged to spread the gospel in private, and in public.
However, what is of profound concern is the open hostility towards the Christian message displayed by the police officers. A police officer automatically assuming that preaching that Jesus is the only way of salvation amounts to ‘racism’ is something which should be of great concern to every Christian.
Unfortunately, this is neither new, a matter of ignorance amongst low-level police officers, nor confined to London. In Scotland the same antipathy toward biblical Christianity is apparent on a governmental and official police level.
The Scottish government and Police Scotland, under the banner One Scotland, last year promoted a poster campaign targeted at ‘bigots’. Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, described it as ‘great leadership’ from those involved.
The campaign consisted primarily of posters addressing ‘Bigots’, ‘Homophobes’, ‘Transphobes’, ‘Disablists’ and ‘Racists’, all signed ‘Yours, Scotland’. One poster read, ‘Dear bigots, you can’t spread your religious hate here. End of sermon. Yours, Scotland.’
Scotland’s government and police plainly think holding the biblical definition of sin is evidence of bigotry and hatred. The posters made clear the only reason anyone could see homosexual practice as sinful is because they are motivated by ill-will against homosexuals. In the view of the SNP government and Police Scotland such ‘bigots’ are not welcome in Scotland.
For a government and its police force to tell Christians who teach the Bible that they ‘are not welcome’ in their own country is something which usually only happens in totalitarian states.
The Scottish police decide what qualifies as a hate crime. After being reported to themselves for a hate crime the police painstakingly examined the posters for two months and decided they weren’t guilty. The foxes guard the henhouse.
So sure are they of their own rectitude it does not seem to have entered their minds that these posters might possibly stir up hatred and animosity towards Christians. Hopefully that was not their intention but that does not absolve the Scottish establishment of responsibility for any ill-will engendered or inflamed by their actions.
Unfortunately, this is a developing trend in British life. In 2016, Michael Overd, a British preacher, and Michael Stockwell, an American evangelist, were charged with violating the Crime and Disorder Act in Bristol because ‘people were getting angry’ at them for declaring that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
During their 2017 trial, prosecutor Ian Jackson argued that preaching that Jesus is the only way to God ‘cannot be a truth’ and some passages of the Bible are not acceptable for modern times.
Jackson also said that it was wrong for the preachers to include homosexuals in a list of sinners including drunkards and thieves, arguing that doing so ‘must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.’
Overd and Stockwell were convicted and appealed against the verdict. Judge Martin Picton and two other appeal court judges ruled that the prosecution could not sufficiently prove the preachers were motivated by animus toward any group. ‘We conclude Mr Stockwell did no more than express his no doubt sincerely-held religious beliefs as he was entitled to do,’ the judge said.
It is apparent this alienation has been building over the course of years. We can expect it to grow yet further.
Editor’s note. The text has been corrected. Mr Ilesanmi was subsequently released without charge.