Lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of England and Wales tried to have a Christian street preacher convicted for quoting the Bible to a lesbian couple, insisting that scripture is “no longer appropriate in modern society “.
The extraordinary case, mounted in what is still nominally a Christian church, with an established church in which the head of state serves as Supreme Governor, was brought against armed forces veteran and throat cancer survivor John Dunn, after the police referred him to prosecutors for telling a lesbian couple that it “says in the Bible that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God” in Swindon.
“Whether a statement of Christian belief or not, the court is being asked to consider whether the language has the potential to cause harassment, alarm or distress,” the CPS wrote to the courts when pursuing the case, in a document quoted by the Belfast News Letter.
“This document is not the forum for religious debate, but the bible contains other material recognising slavery (Exodus 21:7), the death sentence (Exodus 35:2 and Leviticus 24:16) and cannibalism (Deuteronomy 28:27),” the prosecutors asserted — sloppily, as it turns out, as Deuteronomy 28:27 actually makes no reference to cannibalism.
“There are references in the bible which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public,” the CPS insisted.
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“The suggestion by the Crown that there are parts of the Bible ‘which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public’, is one that if accepted would have significant constitutional implications,” a Christian theologian consulted by the Christian Legal Centre to formulate a defence for Mr Dunn argued, citing the fact that the Bible “has had a unique status within British constitutional history” and was, for example, presented to the late Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation.
“Our Gracious Queen: To keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God,” she was told as the holy book was presented to her.
These arguments were not actually tested in court, however, as the case against Mr Dunn ended up being dropped — not because prosecutors had a change of heart, but because “the two women [who accused him] reportedly ‘refused to engage with the case’ after making the initial allegations”, according to Christian Concern, which works alongside the Christian Legal Centre.
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What has been more concerning for some in Dunn’s case is the seeming disinterest in his plight from various churches in the British Isles, and the fact that other British prosecution services refused to say they would act as the CPS did.
The Belfast News Letter asked the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland — Northern Ireland and Scotland retain criminal justice systems separate from that in England and Wales due to their history as independent kingdoms — if they shared the CPS’s view on biblical quotes being criminal, but it would only say that “[t]his is not a PPS case so we are not in a position to provide comment.”
The Church of England, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and English Catholic Church all declined to comment — the last of these in particularly disingenuous terms, suggesting that “as this case didn’t result in a conviction, there is nothing we can add at this point”.
Mr Dunn, for his part, said he was “relieved and grateful that the case has been dropped” — and that he “plan[s] to continue to preach on the streets of Swindon.”
“When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible. When [my accusers] told me they were in a same-sex marriage, I was concerned for them. I had to communicate the consequences of their actions based on what the Bible says. I wanted to warn them, not out of condemnation, but out of love,” h e said in comments quoted by Christian Concern.
“I wanted… them to know that there is forgiveness through the love of Jesus,” he added.
Christian Legal Centre chief executive Andrea Williams lamented that the prosecution had ever been attempted, saying that it was “extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible contains abusive words which, when spoken in public, constitute a criminal offence.”
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— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 2, 2021