Using the Public Order Act, which outlaws the "unreasonable use of abusive language likely to cause distress," police in England arrested a Baptist street preacher late last month. The charge against Dale McAlpine was causing "harassment, alarm or distress," and "using abusive or insulting language" by calling same-sex relationships sins.
McAlpine, a longtime preacher in the region of Cumbria, was passing out pamphlets listing the Ten Commandments. A passerby stopped and engaged him in a debate about his Christian beliefs. During their conversation, according to The Daily Telegraph, he listed homosexuality among a number of other sins, based on the Bible.
The newspaper reports that after the woman walked away, a police community support officer approached her. After a brief conversation, the PCSO informed McAlpine that a complaint had been filed against him and that "he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language."
According to McAlpine, the PCSO informed him that he was homosexual, and was the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender liaison officer for the Cumbria police. The Telegraph reports that McAlpine replied, "It's still a sin."
A short time later, three uniformed officers arrived and took McAlpine into custody.
The Christian Institute is supporting McAlpine in the case. Sam Webster, a lawyer for the organization, does not believe a crime was committed: "The police have a duty to maintain public order but they also have a duty to defend the lawful free speech of citizens. Case law has ruled that the orthodox Christian belief that homosexual conduct is sinful is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society."
After McAlpine was charged, he was released on bail on the condition that he not preach in public. Cumbria police had no comment on the case, and McAlpine is awaiting a trial date.
Editor's Note: See Alisa Harris' Web Extra on American evangelist Shawn Holes being arrested in Scotland last month for the same offense.