I trust that all decent people – straight or gay, religious or non-religious – will be appalled by the treatment meted out to street preacher John Craven. In fact, it was gratifying to read the comments of Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, who said that street preachers should be able to “make whatever point they want”, so long as they are not provoking “violence or mayhem”.
As reported by the BBC, Mr Craven was preaching about salvation when he approached by two teenage boys, who asked him about his views on homosexuality. Mr Craven responded by quoting from the Bible, adding that ‘While God hates the sin, he loves the sinner.’
The two boys then started kissing one another in front of Mr Craven, and acting out sexual acts. They then reported him to a nearby police officer, who arrested him for ‘public order offences’.
Mr Craven was then held at a police station for 15 hours (some reports say 19 hours) without access to food or drink or to the medication he needs for his rheumatoid arthritis. Supported by the Christian Institute, he has brought legal action against the police for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, and a breach of his human rights.
Great Manchester Police have agreed to pay £13,000 in compensation, plus costs, in an out-of-court settlement. While declining to comment on the particulars of the case, a spokesman for the force conceded that, “we did make mistakes and, in particular, kept the claimant in custody for too long.”
Mr Craven said he had “never intended to cause anyone harassment, alarm or distress”. Now, who, in this case, did intend to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’, and succeeded in their intention? Was is not the two teenagers who challenged Mr Craven in the first place? And should they not be held to account?