Video: Police Ban Bible From Christian Café
“I couldn't believe the police were saying I can’t display the Bible. The officers were not very polite, in fact they were quite aggressive. It felt like an interrogation."
09/24/2011 UK (The Christian Institute)-Police in Lancashire have told the owner of a Christian café to stop displaying Bible texts on a video screen, because it breaches public order laws.
Officers attended the Salt & Light Coffee House on Layton Road, Blackpool, on Monday 19 September, following a complaint about “insulting” and “homophobic” material.
The café’s owner, Mr Jamie Murray, says the officers did not specify which Bible texts had caused the offence.
He says the officers told him that displaying offensive or insulting words is a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and told him to stop displaying the Bible.
The Bible texts are displayed on a TV screen at the back of the café. Mr Murray uses a set of DVDs called the Watchword Bible.
The DVDs cycle through the whole of the New Testament verse by verse, with the words appearing on the screen. Mr Murray mutes the audio.
He told the police officers he would agree to stop displaying the Bible verses while he sought legal advice. After speaking with a lawyer, he is once again displaying the material.
The café’s name, Salt & Light, is a quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Christian leaflets are available in the café, and it has links with a local church.
There is widespread concern that the police are misusing the law to clamp down on words or material that others may find “insulting”. Civil rights groups worry about the impact on free speech.
The Christian Institute is calling for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act – a proposal supported by the National Secular Society, two civil rights groups Liberty and Justice, and Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights.
Mr Murray said: “I couldn’t believe the police were saying I can’t display the Bible. The officers were not very polite, in fact they were quite aggressive. It felt like an interrogation.
“I’m not here to insult or offend anyone, but the Bible is the Bible. We’re always being told that we’re a tolerant and diverse nation. Yet the very thing that gave us those values – Christianity – is being sidelined.
“I’m not looking to make a name for myself, I’d rather be quietly getting on with running my café. But there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough.”
The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications, Mike Judge, said: “We’ve all seen the police stand by while extremist Muslims hold placards calling for infidels to be beheaded, but woe betides a Christian café displaying Bible texts.
“Will Lancashire Constabulary be publishing a police-approved Bible? Perhaps they could call it the PC-PC version. Haven’t they heard of free speech or religious liberty?”
In 2005 the same force, Lancashire Constabulary, paid out £10,000 compensation to Joe and Helen Roberts, an elderly Christian couple who had been investigated by the police for telling their council that they didn’t agree with homosexuality.
After that controversy they promised to review their procedures to stop this kind of nonsense. They broke that promise on Monday when their officers marched into the Christian café. The police may now be facing another costly legal action.
“This just shows why Section 5 of the Public Order Act needs a meaningful revision. The police clearly believe it gives them the power to clamp down on free speech – even to ban the Bible.”
“It ought to go without saying that reading the Bible out loud in a public place, or displaying Bible texts in a Christian café, is not of itself a criminal offence. I am alarmed that I even have to point that out.