Free Tony Miano: If You Love Free Speech Let The Anti-Gay Christian Preacher Talk
OUR increasingly intolerant society, which seeks to be offended by anything and then whine about it until the offender is shamed into conformity, has seen to it that a preacher has been arrested in Dundee.
American street evangelist Tony Miano had been talking about sexual sin. Mr Miano – a former policeman in Los Angeles – was in fully cry, telling passers by about which sins Jesus could save them from - adultery, promiscuity, homosexuality – when a woman took offence. She said that as the mother of a gay man she was offended.
Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth is a fellow member of Miano’s street preaching team. He tells us what happened next: “Tony wasn’t focussing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin.
A woman was yelling at him and her friend noticed we were filming the preaching, so she ran up to me and tried to smash my camera.” Anyone who thinks homosexuality is against god’s plan can say so. Anorak thinks them wrong. People are made different. Get over it.
But the women craving tolerance for her son demanded censure of opposing views. Williamson says the woman looked like was calling the police. A council warden arrived and put it to the evangelical preachers that they should move on. But why? They’d broken no laws. Then the police arrived. Williamson says: “The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it and then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van.” Why? The male officer interviewed the offended woman. He then arrested Mr Miano. Williamson adds: “After Tony was put in the police van I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language.”
Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, Andrea Minichiello Williams, is unhappy: “This appears to be an overzealous reaction by the police. The incident adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible. It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible.” In July 2012, Miano was arrested for breaching Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.
Before being pinched he’d told passers by in Wimbledon: “My friends, the reality is, we are all going to stand before God to give account for our lives. And whether our sin is sexual in nature or not, if we have violated his law in any way – whether it is homosexuality, whether it is refusing to abstain from evil in the heterosexual community and we are lusting after people we are indulging in fornication, but even beyond that if we have so much as told one lie – God sees us as a violator of his law, God does not see us as good.”
The case was dropped. This time, Miano has his backers. The Biblical Church Evangelism Conference likens him to Saint Peters, putting up with trial and tribulations to get the message of God to the great unwashed.
Gospel opposition does not justify a retreat, or mean that Peter, John, or a modern day evangelist has erred in failing to adopt a more “Seeker Friendly” approach. Quite to the contrary, Gospel opposition is a good indicator that the radical message of repentance of sin (thief, drunkard, fornicator, homosexual, lesbian, adulterer, blasphemer, idolater, etc.) and confession of Jesus Christ (fully God, fully man, crucified, buried, and risen on the third day) as LORD and God, was faithfully and successfully proclaimed and heard. Peter and John do not sound the retreat and find a way to make the Law and Gospel less offensive or more palatable for sinners. Motivated by the love of God and the love of the lost, they press in with the Sword of the Spirit and drive home the Gospel message to the highest court.
It’s the kind of monocular bilge that might turn you against John. But the argument for free speech should not be tempered by what he said. It’s the refusal of his right to say it that is deeply troubling to anyone who respects freedom. After his first arrest, Miano said:
“As the questioning started it became apparent that the interrogation was about more than the incident that too place in the street but what I believed and how I think. I was being interrogated about my thoughts … that is the basic definition of thought police. It surprised me that here in the country that produced the Magna Carta that an otherwise law abiding person could lose his freedom because one person was offended by the content of my speech.”
Tony Miano in Italics
Police Interviewer in Regular Script
Michael Phillips, solicitor for Mr. Miano italicized and capped by “LR:”
In that passage of Scripture, the apostle Paul encourages the Thessalonians to abstain from all forms of sexual immorality. And to live a holy life, that is consistent with a life devoted to God and the holiness of God. … And I was preaching about various forms of sexual immorality. Both homosexual and heterosexual, including fornication, which is sex prior to marriage. Okay. And you were stopped by? Do you remember who stopped you? Well Officer Green, Constable Green. There were several officers with him, I didn’t get all their names. One officer was named Ed.
Were you offended?
Yeah, it would be PC Bailey [unclear] I would imagine. But, prior to your arrest, do you remember anyone who may have made any comments to you taking exceptions as to your comment?
Okay, talk me through what happened in that instance.
Well, first there was an older gentleman who told me F off. I won’t say exactly what he said. But told me to F off as he was getting on the bus behind me. And then a woman, presumably, the woman who apparently called the police, she likewise told me to F off as she was walking into the mall and I don’t recall exactly what I said to her. But at one point I asked, I would love to dialogue with you about this. Okay. And that’s when she walked into the mall and she came back down a short time later. It looked like she was filming with her phone [unclear]. And shortly after the police arrived.
Okay, the lady in question, I would make the assumption, I haven’t met her, but I would make the assumption, as you have, that she is the complainant in that instance. She, I won’t bore you, well I say bore you, but I won’t read [unclear] the whole statement because it just details the fact that she was there… And at about 2:30 the first time she recognized you, she thought nothing of it at the time. Her intention was to go out to try and obtain tickets for tennis. … she came back at half past four and this is when the incident occurred in your direction. She’s just detailing how the incident occurred. Sorry, it was at ten past four. She says that she walked back down to the entrance to centre court, which is the shopping centre, not center court tennis, and she noticed that what she described as a male who had originally been speaking about God on the microphone was now filming another male in a red t-shirt. Does that sound about right to you?
Well, my friend who [unclear], he was filming the preaching… that was me.
She says again thinking nothing of it, she walked by. She got about five metres from the man in the red t-shirt and she heard him say, “homosexuality is a sin, we all know it’s wrong.” Did you say that?
Words to that effect, yes.
Okay, she says she was extremely offended by this, which caused her a lot of distress. She said the microphone the man was speaking into was attached to a loudspeaker and could be heard by a large captive audience. She said she mouthed, “fu*k you.”
Got that? A woman offended by what we would call a perverse view doesn’t laugh it off or debate the issue. He complains to the authorities.
… Okay, so she says that you said this, and you said, “tell me to fu*k off, will you come and have a discourse with me?” … Okay. She says that she was with another person who was around [unclear], she saw that she was angry and took her by the arm and led her away. They apparently went to have a discussion about it. And she said due to the man making homophobic statements, saying homophobic statements in the public place, that she felt an offense had been committed and she called the police. While she was waiting for them to arrive, she said you said, “God wants the world to be ordered as one man and one woman, heterosexuality. Homosexuality, lesbianism, and fornication is wrong. God knows that, you know that…”
And then came the key question.
How do you feel… Members of the public may feel?
It’s not a matter of law. It;’s matter of feelings. Anorak harks back to the case against Liam Stacey, the berk who made racist tweets about Fabrice Muamba, as the black footballer lay at death’s door on the pitch. At Swansea Magistrates Court, District Judge John Charles told him:
“It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life. At the moment not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life, your comments aggravated this situation. I have no choice but to impose an immediate custodial sentence to reflect the public outrage at what you have done.”
Stacey got 56 days prison for a few tweets. The judge actually believed that his tweets aversely affected Muamba, who was dying on the Spurs pitch. Now that is insane. Back to the Wimbledon nick:
… Okay. Let me give you an example just for my benefit. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance regarding religion. You know… If two males walked past you holding hands, and in your view apparently homosexuals, would you consider them a sinner. Yes. Okay, that is what I wanted to know. So in that sense of the word, in that respect, do you feel what you were doing today, preaching the gospel, making the comments about homosexuality being a sin, do you think that that could have upset people?
Upsetting people is now against the law? You can be an unwitting upsetter. If they are upset, then you are guilty. Got it?
Okay, the issue as well is that not everyone is religious, so not everyone would see homosexuality as a sin, would they? I don’t think that’s relevant. Because God sees it as a sin.
If if you have a view that might upset someone, keep it to yourself. Debate is shut down.
So you [unclear] are you offended by it because you are religious? Am I offended by what? By homosexuality. Homoesexuals don’t do anything to me. No. They offend God. Just as… Okay. It doesn’t offend you. Just as my sin offends God. It doesn’t offend you? No. I harbor no bitterness or resentment… Okay. Toward homosexuals or… That’s basically what I was getting at. You don’t have any, you don’t have any… I don’t have any anger towards them. And you never discriminate against them?
Eh? He’s talking loudly in the shopping precinct. Is who he lets into his home, serves in a bar or has sex with now under investigation?
No. So if someone you knew as a homosexual came up to you and asked you for a favour, you’d quite happily offer them that favuor would you?
Objection! Relevancy? Overruled.
… Okay, so. Tell me what you were doing today then. It’s apparent from this statement we have, that you have upset someone. Okay. She’s saying that what you said she found distressing, okay? Someone else has told you to “F off” as you put it. A gentleman, so whatever you were saying at that time people obviously found distressing I don’t know.
I can assure that if you had told me at the time that she had told you to F off the same thing would have happened to her. Because as far as I’m concerned, two wrongs don’t make a right. I appreciate that.
Wow! You can be arrested for telling someone to f-off? What if you say it a jokey way? Well, if they take offence, then it is offensive. …
Okay. And, last question I’ve got for you, is do you think what you did was acceptable in a public place… Absolutely.
Good answer. This is the United Kingdom, where freedoms have been hard won.
With, I don’t know how many people walking past you during the day bearing in mind the tennis championships are on, do you feel that what you did, making the comments you made, is 100% acceptable in a public place?
…. Will you do this again tomorrow? If I have the opportunity, yes.
It wasn’t against the law today. But tomorrow…
Okay, as I’ve said, I’ve got nothing else to ask you. Obviously I’ve covered everything I need to cover. We’ll just establish that you don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong…
Apologise for hurting feelings and it will be okay. But never do it again. Adrian Tippetts puts it well:
The preacher lost his freedom to express his opinion that Monday afternoon; everyone lost their right to listen, to challenge each other’s claims, to change their minds and to sharpen their arguments. Prejudices unexpressed are likely to fester and grow precisely because they go unchallenged.
FREE TONY MIANO!