Four Christian preachers, Michael Overd, Adrian Clark, Michael Stockwell and a friend, have been arrested after preaching in a Bristol shopping area (1). The preachers explained the difference between Islam and Christianity, spoke of God’s love, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. However, as captured on Overd’s camera (2), the preaching was halted by a police officer who forcibly removed them from the scene. At the time of the arrest a crowd had gathered with some appearing to be quite aggressive and hostile.
The police officer approached Overd and told him that he was “causing a disturbance” and “not welcome,” and that he’d receive a Dispersal Notice. However, Overd apparently did not receive any notice and was removed anyway. The motivation for the arrest was that Overd and the other preachers had “gone over the top” and “wound up people.” The preachers will argue that the arrest has raised crucial questions concerning the freedom of speech and freedom of religion when they face trial in the Bristol Magistrates’ Court on the 23rd of February. They will also contend that they simply explained the Bible’s teaching and sought to respond to questions, comments and objections raised by those in the crowd.
Their representatives Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, and solicitor Michael Phillips. Williams explains that “Mr Overd and his friends are motivated by love. They want to share the good news of Jesus with people who might not otherwise hear it. Sometimes that means addressing the false claims of other religions or ideologies… Robust debate is sometimes necessary, especially when objections are being raised or abuse hurled. We shouldn’t be afraid of it… The aggressive treatment of Mr Overd and his friends by the police and prosecution is shocking. The police should be defending freedom of speech, not clamping down on it… We will not only be seeking the acquittal of these Christian men but seeking an apology from the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset police, compensation and assurances that officers are better trained to protect freedom of expression.”
This is not the first time Overd has faced charges for public preaching (3), something he has been doing for over five years in Taunton, England (4). If you feel your religious freedom has been undermined in any way please engage our FFAF ‘legal help’ page.
1. Christian Concern. 2017. Christian Preachers Stand Trial in Bristol. Available.
2. YouTube. 2017. Christian evangelist shares the story of his arrest. Available.
3. Christian Concern. 2014. Street Preacher To Be Prosecuted For Comparing the Lives of Jesus and Muhammad. Available.
4. Christian Concern. 2015. Street Preacher On Trial For Gospel Preaching. Available.