Adobe Stock | Inset: Spirit of Life Reformed Baptist Church / YouTube

A UK pastor who was banned from “passing comments on any other religion or comparing them to Christianity” and “passing comments on beliefs held by Atheists or those who believe in evolution” by police has won his suit against the Avon & Somerset Police Force. Dia Moodley, an immigrant to the UK from South Africa, pastors Spirit of Life Church in Bristol and had been engaging in street evangelism for five years. “There would be a signboard that said ‘Stop and ask any question’ and so whatever I’d be speaking on, I’d literally stop and take questions from people. But part of my agreement in taking questions from people was that I could ask the question back. That question-and-answer discourse … gathered a crowd very quickly … It could grow from two people to 100 people in a matter of minutes,” Moodley told Fox News. According to The Daily Mail, he would also hold signs up with phrases such as “Evolution is a lie,” “God created them, man and woman,” and “abortion is murder.”

Moodley had sought help from the police to protect his street sermons after facing racial abuse from passersby, resulting in police attending his sermons to protect his congregation and keep the peace. But in October 2021 during a meeting with local police to establish good relations, the police force served Moodley with a six-month “Community Protection Notice.” In addition to prohibiting Moodley from speaking against other religions and atheism, the notice prohibited Moodley from “delivering a sermon or religious address at a time or place that has not had prior consent and approval of Avon & Somerset Constabulary.” Moodley refused to sign the notice and sought legal action through the Alliance Defending Freedom International and The Free Speech Union. “It isn’t for the police to decide which religions or worldviews can be free from criticism. When I preach, I am committed to speaking about the Good News of Christianity in love, grace, and truth—but that doesn’t mean that I will never say something that others may disagree with. The nature of a free and democratic society is that we can speak publicly about our beliefs,” said Moodley. 

After a review, police admitted that some of the actions taken in the notice were “disproportionate.” In November 2023, a case was settled out of court, and Moodley’s expenses were paid. Officials did, however, note that they had responded to complaints from “distressed” members of the public when Moodley had preached on such topics as homosexuality. “Officers have worked with a street preacher over many years to balance his right to free speech with the general public’s right to work and shop in Bristol without being caused undue distress,” said Avon and Somerset police. Bryn Harris, Chief Legal Officer for the Free Speech Union, celebrated the police force’s admission. “The state does not hold a monopoly on truth, and the ability to discuss and debate ideas, including religious ideas, is the lifeblood of any genuinely free society,” said Harris. Moodley said he was “thankful.” “Our freedom of speech is under threat, our freedom of religion is under threat, and we’re thankful for this case going in our favor.”

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