Reading the Bible in public is “no longer appropriate in modern society,” according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The UK’s main prosecution service made the claim in their argument against John Dunn, a 55-year-old street preacher from Swindon, southwest England, who was accused of publicly citing 1 Corinthians 6:9 in the hearing of two lesbians back in November 2020.
At the time, the two women reported Dunn to the police for “biblical speak” and accused him of shouting at them that “they will burn in hell.” Dunn denied the charge, as he had previously lost his voice box to throat cancer.
Dunn voluntarily attended a police station for an interview where he was warned that he would be arrested if he tried to leave. He was then summonsed for an offence under section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The CPS accused Dunn of committing “hate speech” through the use of “threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”
Lawyers argued that the prosecution of Dunn was both “necessary” and “proportionate.”
“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,” lawyers for CPS wrote to Dunn’s legal team.
“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[?]).
“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,” they added.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre described the approach of the CPS to Dunn’s case as “deeply concerning.”
“The Bible and its teachings are the foundation of our society and has provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today,” Williams said. “It is 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.”
Williams noted that ‘offence’ is an entirely subjective concept that can be easily manipulated to shut down opposing viewpoints.
“Any suggestion that there is a right not to be offended must be strongly resisted,” she added. “In today’s democracy, we need the freedom to debate, challenge and disagree.”
The CPS has now dropped the case against Dunn after the two complainants failed to come forward to give evidence.
A CPS spokesperson said, “On the day of the trial the complainants could not be located to provide vital evidence for the prosecution, which resulted in us offering no evidence.”
Dunn said he’s “relieved and grateful” that the case against him has been dropped, and said he plans on returning to his public soapbox.
“When I preach, I only ever say what is in the Bible,” he said.