Preacher spared trial over gay street sermon

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A Christian preacher who was arrested and charged with offending gay people during a sermon in a Birmingham street will not face trial.

The case against Tony Rollins was discontinued earlier this week at the city’s magistrates court.

He has been preaching in New Street for 12 years, but was arrested in June after a member of the public complained.

Mr Rollins has always claimed he was merely reading from the Bible.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service told the Birmingham Mail:

“When considering whether a case should be prosecuted, the CPS applies the Code for Crown Prosecutors in two parts.

“The first is the evidential test where we have to be satisfied that there is enough admissible evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

“If the evidence satisfies the first test, then we have to consider the second test – the public interest test.

“A prosecution will usually take place unless the public interest factors against prosecution clearly outweigh those in favour of prosecution.

“A decision was then made to discontinue the prosecution on the basis that it was no longer in the public interest to prosecute.”

While public order laws have been used in the past against homophobic preachers, in 2006 Stephen Green did not face prosecution after handing out anti-gay leaflets at Cardiff Mardi Gras.

He denied charges that he had used threatening words and behaviour whilst handing out the pamphlets entitled “Same-sex love – same-sex sex: What does the Bible say?”

The Crown Prosecution Service announced that it had insufficient evidence to pursue the charges.

Christian activist groups such as the Evangelical Alliance have claimed the new law on incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation will leave them “living in fear of prosecution” for expressing their Bible-inspired beliefs about homosexuality.

Incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was outlawed as part of the Criminal Justice Act which became law in May.

However, an amendment by Tory peer Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, was added to the bill.

His amendment to the offence of using threatening language with intent to stir up hatred on grounds of sexual orientation said that urging someone to change their sexuality should not count “of itself” as threatening or as intended to stir up hatred.

While he claimed his amendment was about “free speech,” in effect it gives people leeway to claim they were just following their religious beliefs when inciting others to hate gay, lesbian or bisexual people.

Northern Ireland already has comprehensive hate crimes legislation.

The Scottish Parliament is considering a bill that would extend hate crimes to cover sexual orientation and disability. The bill was proposed by Green party MSP Patrick Harvie.