Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt and Light Cafe in Blackpool, 240 miles northwest of London, said two uniformed officers from Lancashire Constabulary arrived at lunchtime on Monday, the cafe’s busiest time of day. Officer June Dorrian told him there had been a complaint and he was in violation of the Public Order Act 1986.
“I told them that all that appeared on the screen were the words of the New Testament,” Murray told the Daily Mail newspaper. “There is no sound, just the words on the screen and simple images in the background of sheep grazing or candles burning. I thought there might be some mix-up but they said they were here to explain the law to me and how I had broken it.
“I said, ‘Are you really telling me that I am facing arrest for playing the Bible?’ and [Dorrian] fixed me with a stare and said, ‘If you broadcast material that causes offence under the Public Order Act then we will have to take matters further. You cannot break the law.’”
Murray told the Mailthat he realized the only way to appease the officers was to pull the plug on the Bible.
Apparently a customer complained that by displaying verses from the Bible, Murray was inciting hatred against homosexuals.
Murray described an “aggressive inquisition” during which, the Mail reported, “he thought he was going to be arrested and ‘frog-marched out of the cafe like a criminal.’
But he added: “I have now checked on my rights and I am not going to be bullied by the police and the PC lobby out of playing the Bible silently in my cafe. It’s crazy. Christians have to stand up for what they believe in.
“I was worried about being handcuffed and led out of the shop in front of my customers. It wouldn’t have looked good so I thought it was better to comply. It felt like a betrayal. They left the shop and told me they would continue to monitor if we were displaying inflammatory material. At no stage had they spoken to me like I was a law-abiding citizen trying to earn a living. I felt like a criminal,” reported the Mail:
Murray said he had been given no indication of who had complained or which verses of the New Testament had caused the offence, but he guessed it may have been a reaction to the Book Of Romans that had been playing the week before. The Book takes the form of a letter from the apostle Paul to the people of Rome, in which he rails against all manner of godlessness.
In verses 26-28 of Chapter One he says: ‘God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural. Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds.’
Far from apologizing about the incident, Lancashire Police said they had received a complaint from a customer who was “deeply offended” by the words on the screen.
A law firm, the Christian Institute, said its lawyers have told Murray he is free to display the Bible in any way he chooses, and they are preparing a complaint against the police.
“I have no problem with the police looking into a complaint,” institute spokesman Mike Judge told the Mail, “but once they realized it was just the words of the Bible being shown on the screen, then they should have walked away. This is intimidatory and completely unacceptable.”
Lancashire Police told the Mail they they were “duty bound” to respond to the complaint and “had concluded the cafe could be in breach of Section 29E of the Public Order Act, which warns that people who play images or sounds that stir up hatred against homosexuals could be guilty of an offense. At no point did the officer ask the cafe owner to remove any materials or arrest the man and we took a commonsense and objective approach in dealing with the complaint. We believe our response and the action we took was completely proportionate.”