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Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
October 05, 2011
4 MIN READ TIME

Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD

Police to British cafe: Don’t show Bible DVD
Michael Foust, Baptist Press
October 05, 2011

LONDON – Religious liberty took another hit in Great Britain

when a Christian restaurant owner was threatened with arrest for playing a

Bible DVD that included passages critical of homosexuality.

The incident, reported in the Daily Mail newspaper, is but the latest example

of what U.K. conservatives say is an abuse of the country’s Public Order Act,

which prohibits the use of “insulting” words that can cause “harassment, alarm

or distress.”

The restaurant, called the Salt and Light Coffee House, for years has played a

DVD version of the New Testament on an overhead TV, with the sound turned down

and the words of the Bible appearing on screen. Called “The Watchword Bible,”

the entire DVD series spans about 26 hours.

Police entered the restaurant Sept. 19 after getting a complaint. Restaurant

owner Jamie Murray said he suspects the complaint came after the passage from

Romans 1:26-26 was displayed on screen. The restaurant is located in Blackpool.

The two police officers conducted an “aggressive inquisition,” Murray said.

“I told them that all that appeared on the screen were the words of the New

Testament,” Murray told the newspaper. “There is no sound, just the words on

the screen and simple images in the background of sheep grazing or candles

burning. I thought there might be some mix-up but they said they were here to

explain the law to me and how I had broken it.

“I said, ‘Are you really telling me that I am facing arrest for playing the

Bible?’ and the (officer) fixed me with a stare and said, ‘If you broadcast

material that causes offence under the Public Order Act then we will have to

take matters further. You cannot break the law.’”

He then turned off the TV.

“I was worried about being handcuffed and led out of the

shop in front of my customers,” Murray said. “It wouldn’t have looked good so I

thought it was better to comply. It felt like a betrayal. They left the shop

and told me they would continue to monitor if we were displaying inflammatory

material. At no stage had they spoken to me like I was a law-abiding citizen

trying to earn a living. I felt like a criminal.”

But Murray says he is not going to back down. The Christian Institute, a

British-based organization that fights for religious liberty, is representing

him.

“I have now checked on my rights and I am not going to be bullied by the police

and the PC lobby out of playing the Bible silently in my cafe,” he said. “It’s

crazy. Christians have to stand up for what they believe in.”

Murray asked, “What’s next, people coming into churches and saying you can’t

say this or that?”

A police spokesman told the Daily Mail that the force is “respectful of all

religious views.”

“However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that

communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in

public,” the spokesman said.

It is not the first time the Public Order Act has been the source of

controversy. Last year a Baptist street preacher in the U.K. was arrested for

calling homosexuality a sin, and his arrest was based on the 1986 law.

The preacher, Dale Mcalpine, was arrested in April 2010 in the British town of

Workington after a police officer – who happened to be homosexual – overheard

him telling a woman that 1 Corinthians forbids homosexuality. The officer

warned him to be quiet, and when he didn’t, he was arrested. The entire

incident was captured on video.

Mcalpine was charged and jailed for seven hours, although charges were dropped.

“England, the U.S. and other Western nations share the same legal, political

and religious traditions,” Mike Judge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute

in the U.K., told Baptist Press last year. “If this can happen in England, it

can happen where you live. Christians need to be aware that small changes in

the law can lead to big changes in the culture. If you want to be free to share

the gospel, you must defend that liberty in the public square. Don’t hide in

your churches; get out there and engage in the culture. Do it wisely,

graciously, with excellence and with courage.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)