A five-strong team of police officers investigated a church’s literature because someone said a leaflet inviting the public to an Easter service was ‘offensive’.
Two mounted policemen were later joined by three armour-clad officers who jumped out of a police van to examine the Easter invitation leaflet.
After the police found no evidence that the leaflet was offensive, the individual making the complaint changed his claim.
He told police he found it offensive that an evangelical church was allowed to advertise itself on the high street in a region which had a sizeable gay community.
The incident took place as the church displayed a table of literature on a street in Chorlton, near Manchester. Police took away examples of the church’s literature for further investigation.
The next day an officer from the Hate Crimes Unit visited the home of church worker Julian Hurst, who was one of those handing out the Easter invite.
The officer confirmed that following the police’s examination of the literature, the church was free to continue distributing it since no laws had been broken.
Although the leaflet inviting people to an Easter service made no mention of homosexuality, it appears the complainant believed the mere advertising of an evangelical church was ‘homophobic’.
This seemed to be enough for several police officers to investigate the complaint, followed by a visit from the Hate Crimes Unit.
Parliament is currently considering a Bill which would remove a free speech protection from a ‘hate speech’ law.
The protection makes clear that criticising homosexual conduct is not, in itself, a crime. The Government wants to remove this protection.
There is clearly a need for the law to send a strong signal to protect freedom of speech so that all people can express their views on sexual ethics without fear of a police investigation.