Government admits it was ‘inappropriate’ for CPS to call Bible ‘offensive’

14 December 2022

In a win for Christian freedoms, the government has said that it was “inappropriate” for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to argue that parts of the Bible are “no longer appropriate in modern society” while trying to convict a Christian preacher of an alleged ‘hate crime.’

In the House of Lords this week, Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl) asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the written statement by the Crown Prosecution that the Bible contains references ‘which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public’.”

Baroness Hoey was referring to the case of Christian preacher, John Dunn, who, supported by the Christian Legal Centre, last month faced criminal prosecution for preaching from the book of Corinthians on Swindon High street.

Bible labelled ‘abusive’

Despite the case against Mr Dunn being thrown out, it was revealed that while trying to secure Mr Dunn’s conviction, the CPS had argued that parts of the Bible are “abusive” and “no longer appropriate in modern society.”

The news sparked international media attention and was seen as the latest example of CPS overreach by pursuing street preachers who have done nothing wrong.

Broadcaster, Tim Stanley, spoke about the case on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ and how the approach of the CPS could silence and censor people of faith.

In response to Baroness Hoey’s question, Lord Stewart of Dirleton (Con), who specialises in criminal law and is the Advocate General for Scotland, replied stating that: “The Wessex Area of the CPS has undertaken a post-case review and acknowledges that the statement was inappropriate.

Lord Stewart stated that “the statement was not intended to and does not represent a change to published CPS Policy. It is not indicative of a general approach by the CPS to cases involving the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the right to freedom of expression”. He also stated that “in future…in cases where there is scope for argument to arise as to rights such as that of freedom of expression, such arguments will be submitted to the Senior District Crown Prosecutor for signing off, prior to service.”

The response represents a clear acknowledgement that the CPS was wrong to suggest that quoting the Bible could be a criminal offence.

Responding to the news, Mr Dunn said: “I am pleased that the government has recognised that the arguments made against me by the CPS were wrong. I faced the prospect of criminal conviction for over two years on these grounds. I hope what has happened will protect other Christians who find themselves unfairly on the wrong side of the law for speaking biblical truth.”

CPS overreach

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Mr Dunn’s case, said: “This was a clear example of overreach from the CPS and demonstrated the extent to which they misunderstand the Bible and freedom of speech. Their arguments in this case were so steeped in the prevailing secular political orthodoxy, it was chilling.

“The Bible and its teachings have historically been the foundation of our society and has provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today. It is extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible contains abusive words which, when spoken in public, constitute a criminal offence.

“Scraping the barrel in this way to try and convict a Christian preacher does not just waste a lot of people’s time, but consistently creates wider and far-reaching implications for Christians across the UK who believe in Jesus and for society in general.

“This recognition from the government that what happened was inappropriate represents good news for UK Christians, and such arguments must never be made by the CPS again.”

Find out more about John Dunn
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