A Christian pastor who was arrested after he preached from the Bible said yesterday he had been treated ‘shamefully’.
John Sherwood, 71, was led away in handcuffs, questioned in a police station and held overnight after being accused of making homophobic comments outside Uxbridge Station in west London.
The grandfather claimed he was left bruised after police pulled him from a mini-stepladder he was using and cuffed his hands behind his back.
Police said they had received complaints the man had been making ‘allegedly homophobic comments’ and arrested him under the Public Order Act, which can be used under the vague proviso that someone is using ‘abusive or insulting words’ that cause ‘harm’ to someone else. He was later released without charge.
Mr Sherwood, a pastor for 35 years, said: ‘I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says – I wasn’t wanting to hurt anyone or cause offence.
‘I was doing what my job description says, which is to preach the gospel in open air as well as in a church building.
‘When the police approached me, I explained that I was exercising my religious liberty and my conscience. I was forcibly pulled down from the steps and suffered some injury to my wrist and to my elbow. I do believe I was treated shamefully. It should never have happened.’
Mr Sherwood, who preaches at an independent evangelical church in north London, was arrested under the Public Order Act for allegedly causing alarm or distress. He was released without charge but a file has now been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for review.
The Metropolitan Police said a member of the public flagged down patrol officers and alleged Mr Sherwood had made homophobic comments.
Mobile phone footage of Friday’s arrest shows Mr Sherwood standing on the stepladder with a Bible in his hand outside a Tube station in Uxbridge, west London. Officers can be heard telling him to get off his steps before they appear to grasp his hands and pull him down.
Onlookers can be heard shouting, ‘He’s an elderly man – take it easy with him’, before officers put Mr Sherwood in handcuffs and take him to a police car.
Mr Sherwood said officers grilled him over his attitude to gay people. He was even asked what he would do if his children were gay. The married father-of-two said: ‘The question was irrelevant to the allegation against me. I said I would seek to bring them to Christ, but of course I would love them no matter what, because they’re my children.’
Andrea Williams, of campaign group Christian Concern, said police needed greater understanding of the law surrounding freedom of speech and religion.
She added: ‘There is an idea that if people are offended you should arrest someone, but in this country we also have freedom of speech.’
A Met Police spokesman said its directorate of professional standards had assessed video footage of Mr Sherwood’s arrest and had found no evidence of misconduct by officers.
A statement posted to a Christian Facebook his supporters read: ‘Whilst he was preaching, he expounded the final verses of Genesis 1, declaring that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to set human beings in families, headed by a father and a mother, not by two fathers, or by two mothers.
‘The distinction within mankind of just two genders, male and female, made in the image of God, constitutes the essence of God’s created order.’
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Source: Daily Mail