Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Adrian Tippetts says it was wrong of the police to arrest US preacher Tony Miano under Section 5 of the Public Order Act following a complaint about his homophobic street sermon.
There might have been good reasons for the police to have a word with American street preacher Tony Miano as he bellowed his sermon on sexual immorality to disinterested passers-by outside a Wimbledon shopping centre last week. The volume levels, perhaps, or his location inches from the kerb, inconveniencing passengers stepping on and off the buses just behind him.
However, it was his views on homosexuality that attracted the police’s attention and led to his arrest and detention under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, after a complaint by a member of the public offended at his “good news”.
According to the transcript of the police interview, Mr Miano appears to be an equal opportunist, denouncing a host of sexual taboos, proscribed in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, including adultery, looking at someone with lust, sex before marriage, masturbation as well as just homosexuality.
Undoubtedly, Mr Miano was inconsiderate. His message would have been deeply unpleasant, especially to victims of homophobic abuse. It might sound tempting to simply stamp out any verbal expression of homophobia, racism or sectarianism. We all know these to be wrong, don’t we? Wouldn’t life be easier if we didn’t upset anyone’s feelings?
Everyone loses out when we deny this right, not just “even” but especially in the case of those views we deem “unpleasant”. As Tom Paine wrote in the introduction to the Age of Reason, he who denies to another the right of his own opinion “makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it”. The preacher lost his freedom to express his opinion that Monday afternoon; everyone lost their right to listen, to challenge each other’s claims, to change their minds and to sharpen their arguments. Prejudices unexpressed are likely to fester and grow precisely because they go unchallenged. The unchallenged extremist wins sympathy as a martyr of the “thought police” without any consideration of his arguments. It means another tale of persecution will echo around right-wing media networks for months.
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