As crowds swelled in the streets of Wimbledon, London, to watch the famed tennis tournament July 1, Tony Miano stood preaching out of his worn Bible to anyone who would listen. A former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, Miano now spends his time evangelizing outside of abortion centers and on the street while carrying a cross. He worked for Ray Comfort’s street evangelism ministry until last year and writes for the blog Cross Encounters.
Last Monday afternoon, he preached on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, calling on people who have engaged in sexually immoral lifestyles—lust, premarital sex, and homosexuality—to repent.
After 25 minutes, local police cut Miano off and took him into custody. An offended woman had called to complain about the preaching and while street preaching is not illegal—Miano had been preaching for a week already—his offensive message was.
According to London law, anyone who engages in homophobic speech that offends others can be arrested. After questioning the woman, police arrested Miano for breaking Public Order Act Section 5, which prohibits anyone who “uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior … within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
With a microphone and loudspeaker projecting his message, Miano spoke about the biblical view of sexuality: “God’s definition is very, very simple. It is the union of one man to one woman for life.” He added that homosexuality is a sin, along with others: “Every person that engages in sexual immorality knows that it is wrong, because God has given them a conscience. … People who engage in sexual immorality are not free, are not autonomous, they’re not independent. They’re slaves—slaves to their own desires.”
No one gathered around Miano, but a few dropped expletives as they walked past. “Why are you so intolerant, ma’am? I’d love to dialogue with you,” he said to one woman, who then went to local Wimbledon police.
The police questioned Miano about the content of his preaching, asking if it could be homophobic in any way, but he contested that homophobia is a fear of homosexuals, something he does not have: “I am not afraid of homosexuals. I love them and I want them to turn from their sin and put their trust in Christ.”
After interviewing the woman, chatting about the weather, and explaining the violation, police led an un-handcuffed Miano away to fingerprint, photograph, and book for evidence. Once at the station, Miano called Christian Concern, an organization that offers legal help for religious freedom cases. During an interrogation, police questioned Miano’s beliefs, asking him if he believed homosexuality was wrong and if he would do a favor for a homosexual. Miano said if a homosexual person asked him for food, he would give him food.
The police finished by asking Miano if he thought he had done anything wrong—he said no—and whether he would continue preaching if released, to which Miano answered yes. The police then decided to press charges, telling Miano he likely would spend the night at the station, face a magistrate, and would need to plea for his case.
But an hour later, the inspector changed the decision and opted to release him without any further action. After seven hours, Miano walked free. He documented the experience later in a video: “By God’s grace, I was released with no further action”
“Like the United States, England has forfeited its soul,” he said. “England is losing its soul and the church is doing very little to stop it.”