I read with interest the story of Jamie Murray this week, the owner of a Christian coffee shop in Blackpool, who was threatened with arrest for displaying bible scriptures in his cafe.
The incident occurred after a complaint had been made by someone who had been offended by what they had read, and Lancashire Police subsequently visited Mr Murray, informing him that he was guilty of breaching the Public Order Act of 1986.
It is yet another in a growing list of high profile incidents in which the police have attempted to silence a Christian view on the back of a complaint from a member of the public who simply disagreed with it.
In the last 18 months alone, there have been a number reports of Christians arrested for preaching the bible in the street. Not attacking and personally abusing other members of the public. Not causing any assault. But merely sharing the foundations of strongly held beliefs.
None have led to convictions, and often have resulted in apologies being issued by the police force involved, as was true of the Jamie Murray’s case.
But when will the Police just learn to interpret the law properly in the first place, and stop wasting time and money arresting or threatening to arrest Christians who simply have a different view on a number of issues than other members of society, as the law allows?
If the situation was turned on its head, how often would a Christian believer have any luck if they turned up at their local police station complaining of the offence being caused to them by seeing a crowd of drunkards parading around a city centre? How about if a Christian street preacher was given a mouthful of abuse by a passer by? If the same law applied to everyone, then the latter of those two examples should certainly be expected to result in a similar investigation by police.
Somehow I doubt it would. If disagreeing with someone was a criminal offence, then there’d have to be 60million prison places, and Nick Clegg may be amongst the first to be locked up. If believing in a different set of values ever became a crime, there’d be a similar outcome.
Some of those who do complain should be embarrassed to be doing so. If you’re on the street and don’t like something you hear, walk away. If it’s not directly and deliberately offensive, then it’s simply a difference of opinion so just get on with it. Equally, there are some stories which make you wonder why the police even consider the complaint to be worthy of investigating.
In my experience, Christian cafes are rather pleasant places to visit whatever your faith. But if you’re of the more sensitive type, instead of going through the stress of having to involve the local constabulary, why not just go to Starbucks in the first place?
Still, it’s encouraging to know that crime in Blackpool is at such a low level that police need incidents like the one above in order to keep themselves busy.