Christian Concern reports…
“Police in Scotland have dropped all charges against two Christian evangelists who were arrested for allegedly using ‘offensive’ language whilst preaching in Dundee and Perth.
Tony Miano (50), a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, was arrested under ‘hate-crime legislation’ during a one-week street-preaching mission in January after a member of the public made an official complaint.
Mr Miano protested his innocence and said they could see his preaching on video to prove he had done nothing wrong and that his message was one of hope to be found in Jesus Christ. The officers refused to look at the footage and took the evangelist to the police station where he was detained for 24 hours.
Josh Williamson, an Australian who is a pastor at the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth was arrested twice in three days in the city last September for an alleged ‘breach of the peace’.
All charges have now been dropped against both evangelists after months of representation by the Christian Legal Centre.
Responding to the charges being dropped, Mr Miano says: “It took months for the prosecutors to view the footage despite our best endeavours from the very beginning to get them to do so. When the Prosecutors finally managed to get the video footage off my camera they could plainly see that the accuser had made allegations about my speech that were simply untrue. The Prosecutors found nothing in my preaching that constituted ‘hate speech’ and came to the conclusion that they had no case against me. Had the officers who arrested me taken a few minutes to review the video footage, they would have seen what I have maintained all along. This has been a stressful time for my family.”
After receiving news that his case had been dropped, Mr Miano thanked the CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Williams, and his lawyer, John Kydd, for their support throughout his ordeal.
Josh, who was represented by Michael Phillips of the CLC said: “Without the Christian Legal Centre our freedoms would be eroded a lot sooner.” He explains that while he no longer faces trial, the matter is not yet over. “There is still the issue of getting back my equipment, including the footage it contains. I am also seeking legal advice as to redress in Scotland’s civil courts against the Scottish Police.”
Andrea Williams said: “This case shows yet again how confused the situation has become. A single passer-by can allege ‘hurt’ ‘offence’ and an innocent preacher gets arrested, taken to a cell and held for many hours.This has a deeply chilling impact on all of us; on our fundamental freedom to speak out about what we believe in for fear of ‘causing offence’ and being punished by the state for doing so.’
“Clearly there is a pressing need for the Association of Chief Police Officers to work with those of us representing street preachers to come up with guidelines on ‘best practice’ for police services across the country to ensure that officers on the beat do not take away the fundamental freedom of Christians to do open air evangelism on the streets of the United Kingdom.”