Christian street preacher Mike Overd, who won a major religious freedom case earlier this year in the U.K., has reportedly been arrested and released again in Taunton, with an online petition seeking to ban him for allegedly saying gay people will go to hell.
U.K.’s Christian Concern, which has backed Overd in a number of his court cases, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the latest arrest was a “knee-jerk” reaction by police, however.
As Somerset County Gazette reported, Overd was arrested and later released without charge on Saturday after witnesses accused him of hurling “racial, homophobic, discriminative and offensive comments” at passers-by during his street preaching, though he denies any wrongdoing.
“I got into a confrontation with him last week because of my sexuality, saying I was a sinner and will go to hell for being gay – and just because I have two kids, I am a bad father for bringing them up in that environment,” said Leon Da Silva, who has launched an online petition signed by over 3,800 people against the preacher.
“I am proposing that we go to the local council and get this man banned from preaching in the town center as locals want a hassle-free shopping experience.”
Overd has denied saying that people will go to hell because of their sexual orientation, however, and argued that he did not know Da Silva was gay.
Ben Cooper, case worker with Christian Concern, told CP that Overd has “made it clear” that he is motivated by the desire for all people to hear the Gospel.
“Yet once again, the police’s treatment of him illustrates their lack of understanding about how the law applies to Christian street preachers. The decision to arrest Mr. Overd was a knee-jerk reaction, as he was threatened with a dispersal order for exercising his legal rights and then arrested and detained without being told what he had done wrong or evidence first being gathered to substantiate the accusations,” Cooper said.
He revealed that Overd was held for nearly five hours by police, and was not given a clear explanation of what he allegedly did wrong.
“The same lack of awareness of how the law applies to Christian street preachers is seen throughout the country, when street preachers are arrested where no violation of the law has occurred,” Cooper continued.
“It is clear that additional training is needed to safeguard the fundamental right of freedom of expression, which is foundational to a functioning democracy.”
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Source: Christian Post