Statement in Support of Street Preachers
Convicted of Criminal Offence in U.K. for Quoting the King James Bible
As citizens of free nations, we the stand united in protest against the U.K. government’s conviction of preachers Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell. For preaching the very words of the King James Bible, these Christian citizens of the U.K. stand convicted in the U.K.’s Bristol Magistrates’ Court under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The government proceeded to convict these Christian people of a criminal offence, even though government action criminalizing the peaceful expression of religious conscience violates the most fundamental of all human rights.
These unconscionable convictions, if allowed to stand, hold the horrific potential to crush freedom of expression and the free exercise of religious conscience in the United Kingdom. Censuring an idea simply because the idea is informed by ancient sacred tenets prevents thousands of years of wisdom from informing the public ethic. A Christian citizen who attempts to inform the public ethic should not be punished or prosecuted simply because the citizen’s ideas are informed by sincerely held Christian truths.
In a democracy, religious liberty and freedom of expression is not there to protect the ideas of people with whom those in power agree – it is needed to protect people who express ideas with which those in power do not agree. Thus, the test of a functioning moral democracy is not whether the government protects speech with which it agrees – it is whether it will protect expression it finds offensive. Instead of censuring or punishing speech, the answer (at least in a democracy valuing freedom) must always be more speech. These truths explain why religious freedom and the freedom of speech are inalienable human rights, protected under at least two treaties to which the United Kingdom is a signatory.
Selective enforcement and punishment of expression sends a bitter chill throughout the citizenry in a democracy. Institutional integrity cannot exist without personal virtue. Good governance and civic institutional integrity rest on the virtue of its citizens. Christian ideas support and nurture this virtue and should, therefore, always be permitted within the marketplace of ideas.
The government convictions here seek nothing less than to profane and demolish all things sacred throughout the United Kingdom. As citizens of free nations, we stand united condemning the convictions in this case, and stand united in support of these Christian people and their human rights to free speech and the free exercise of religious conscience.