Win for two Christians arrested for preaching next to LGBT flags

6 March 2024

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped a case against two street preachers who faced being criminalised following arrests for refusing to stop preaching from the Bible on Glastonbury High Street.

Mr John Dunn and Mr Shaun O’Sullivan, who are being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, were arrested by officers wearing rainbow lanyards under section 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

One officer at the scene, after being described as a man by the preachers, said: “I am going to challenge that as you don’t know whether I am a man or a woman, I’m a person, ok.”

After the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to take forward the case, both men faced being convicted this week at Taunton Magistrates’ Court.

Before District Judge Angela Brereton, the preachers’ lawyers argued that issuing a dispersal notice was unjustified and that the arrests and prosecutions were disproportionate and unlawful.

They added that both men were exercising their Article 9 and 10 rights by expressing that same sex sexual practice and transgenderism is incompatible with the Bible and the Christian faith.

In response, the CPS were not in a position to make their case and therefore offered ‘no evidence’ to all charges.

Judge Brereton was forced to drop the case, and granted the preachers their legal fees and travel expenses to be paid by the State.

Police rainbow lanyards

The hearing for the case came following months of antisemitic protests on the streets of London with Islamists calling for ‘jihad’ and the destruction of Israel without the police taking any action. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has described it as ‘mob rule’.

On 8 June 2023, Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Dunn who regularly preach across the UK were preaching in the town of Glastonbury in Somerset.

Both preachers are born-again Christians. Mr Dunn is a throat cancer survivor and former Special Forces Operative. Mr O’Sullivan became a Christian after a life of drug addiction and crime. Mr O’Sullivan became friends with Mr Dunn after previously heckling his preaching in Swindon.

Mr Dunn now struggles to preach as he had part of his voice box removed and now has to use an aid, therefore Mr O’Sullivan does most of the preaching.

Leading up to the arrests, the preachers had been proclaiming from the Bible in the town with Mr O’Sullivan, for example, declaring to members of the public that ‘nothing can set you free but Jesus and the God of the Bible.’

Moving down the High Street and continuing to preach, Mr O’Sullivan was assaulted, and the men were verbally abused by members of the public with one threatening to report them for a ‘hate crime.’

The preachers then stopped outside ‘The Sons of Asguard Witchcraft Emporium’ store which sells ‘magical apothecary’ and had several LGBTQI+ flags in the window.

They gave out leaflets and preached from 1 Corinthians chapter 6 v 9 which details how ‘the unrighteous’, including those who practice homosexuality, ‘will not inherit the Kingdom of God.’

Police ‘ask my pronoun’ badge

In the video footage, several police officers then appeared on the High Street with at least one of them wearing an LGBTQI+ pride rainbow lanyard and an ‘ask my pronouns’ badge.

Later on in the confrontation, one of the officers when referred to as a man by Mr O’Sullivan said: “I am going to challenge that as you don’t know whether I am a man or a woman, I’m a person, ok.”

The preachers asked: “What law have we broken?” The police said they had received complaints that they were causing members of the public ‘harassment, alarm and distress’, that their preaching is classed as ‘anti-social behaviour’ and that they needed to ‘investigate a breach of the peace.’

To try and demonstrate the police’s political bias, Mr Dunn pointed to the LGBTQI+ flags in the witchcraft emporium and said that he was offended and distressed by them and wanted to make a complaint.

The officer said: “I can’t do anything about that”, and Mr Dunn replied: “Why are doing something about me, then?”

Mr Dunn added: “People should complain, because they have got the right to complain. We live in a society where people can complain…we are not here to cause trouble; we are here to tell people about the God of the Bible. If people get angry about that, that’s not our problem…they can walk past.”

More officers then arrived on the scene and one of them said: “We’ve had a couple of complaints…we’ve got to act on that as gone are the days that people say ‘oh the police came round and did nothing.’”

He added: “We need to try and make sure there are no criminal offences going on…we might need to remove you to prevent a breach of the peace.

Mr O’Sullivan asked what had allegedly caused offence and the officer said: “I understand you were saying stuff from the Bible that is controversial…at the moment I want that to stop.”

Mr O’Sullivan said that they were not going to stop preaching and that: “You are going to have to arrest us.”

“That’s awkward”, the officer replied.

After speaking to other police officers, the officer came back and said: “I’ve spoken to some witnesses, and the allegations are that you were saying things that are causing harassment alarm and distress…including saying that homosexuals are paedophiles.”

Mr O’Sullivan categorically denied the accusation which is backed by body cam footage of the preaching.

The police then ordered the preachers to leave the area under threat of arrest.

Mr O’Sullivan then said: “I am going to refuse, as is my right, to stop preaching.”

Continuing to preach and proclaim Jesus Christ as ‘the King of Kings and Lord of Lords’, Mr O’Sullivan was handcuffed and arrested.

Escorted to the police van he said: ‘This is what happens when you come to broken Britain and preach. Glastonbury, we love you, in Jesus’ name.”

Mr Dunn then also carried on preaching, refused to leave the area, and was then also arrested under section 35.

‘I only ever say what is in the Bible’

Following the hearing, Mr Dunn said“The response from the police was completely disproportionate and a clear example of the two-tier policing that is rife on our streets right now.

“When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible. It is very disconcerting when you are approached by police officers accusing you of a ‘hate crime’ for allegedly being ‘homophobic’ and they have rainbow lanyards around their necks. It does not give any confidence that the lawful expression of Christian beliefs on these issues will be respected or defended.”

Mr O’Sullivan said: “We are determined to fight for justice on this matterIt cannot be right that terrorist sympathisers are acting with impunity on UK streets, and yet we face being convicted for expressing our Christian beliefs from the Bible.

“I meant it when I said that we were there because we love the people of Glastonbury and wanted them to know the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Christian open-air preaching has a long and respected history in this country and must be protected and defended at all costs.

“John and Shaun are passionate about reaching the public with the Christian faith that has transformed their lives. They were well within their rights to preach and to continue preaching on Glastonbury High Street without being forced to move on or fearing arrest.

“It is not an offence if someone is offended by the truth of the Bible. The police must be impartial and uphold the law, not LGBTQI+ identity politics.”

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