Stop the police shutting down preaching
Avon and Somerset Police told me and my church we could only preach with their “prior consent and approval”.
Help me defend our right to believe and speak freely.
Avon and Somerset Police told me I could only preach with their “prior consent”.
I am the minister of Spirit of Life Church, a small, BAME majority church in Bristol. I preach regularly on a Sunday, and often speak publicly with members of our church about the Christian gospel around Bristol. I previously had a good relationship with the police in relation to our public preaching.
Things deteriorated in 2021, without any forewarning. Avon and Somerset police issued me with two anti-social behaviour ‘Warning Notices’ threatening me with a criminal record if I did not comply with a series of Draconian conditions.
Conditions in the first Warning Notice included:
• A requirement to seek permission from Avon and Somerset Police before preaching in any place at any time. This requirement was not limited only to my public preaching.
• A clause forbidding me from “passing comment” on other religions, the beliefs of atheists or “those who believe in evolution” in a public place.
After receiving a pre-action letter from my solicitors, the Police withdrew the first Warning Notice. They then issued a second.
The second Warning Notice threatened me with sanction if:
• I “encouraged” others to preach in any time or place in Bristol.
• I made any remark about the LGBT community which is “derogatory”, but the Notice does not specify what this means and officers would not explain it to me.
Myself and the members of our church are careful to be respectful of all communities in our city when we are preaching. We are often asked questions about our views on sensitive matters like creationism, atheism, homosexuality and transgender rights when we are out preaching, but we are left in fear that we will be criminalised for giving honest responses in light of the notices.
I believe the intention of both notices is to restrict me from preaching publicly. The police and others object to the orthodox Christian content of my preaching.
Myself and our church have therefore brought a claim against Avon and Somerset Police for breach of our right to freedom of speech and assembly and religious discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.
What can you do to help?
Championing the cause for freedom has come at a cost to me. I need to pay our legal fees and show Avon and Somerset Police that the right to believe and speak freely belongs to everyone.
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All unused funds will be distributed to organisations working to protect the rights and freedoms of street preachers.
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Vicki Jewish, atheist, probably disagree with much of what you say, but passionately support your right to say it, derogatory to me or anyone else as may be, or, truly, there is no help for any of us in the Britain of tomorrow (today?).
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