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Woolwich street preacher in Greenwich Council police threat
CHRISTIAN campaigners are demanding an apology after a Woolwich street preacher was told to stop his Bible readings and threatened with police action.
Josh Williamson was spreading the good news in Powis Street on February 20, using a board equipped with an amplifier which played a reading of St John's Gospel.
But the baptist minister, who says proclaiming Jesus's teachings is his Christian duty, was soon approached by an enforcement officer from Greenwich Council and told to turn the volume down, before ordering him to switch it off completely.
The 27-year-old missionary, who recently moved to Woolwich from Australia, asked what volume would be acceptable and what by-law he was breaking - but the council officer would not tell him.
He said: "The issue seemed to be the message rather than the amplification.
"What right does a local council officer have to determine what the British public should and shouldn't hear?
"I asked her if the Bible was the issue and she said people didn't want to hear it.
"I don't know how the Christian message, which has been proclaimed in this country for hundreds of years can cause harm to people walking past."
As the dispute continued, Mr Williamson was told by the council employee to stop giving out leaflets and that she would get police to remove him and his fellow preacher from the town centre.
But when police did arrive on the scene, they took no action, and Mr Williamson was allowed to continue the Lord's work.
He said: "I must admit, the way in which they approached us in front of people and ordered us to stop was rather humiliating.
"Being someone who's involved in Christian ministry, reputation is everything."
Freedom of expression
The Woolwich Evangelical Church member has now contacted campaign group Christian Concern, which is writing to the council demanding an apology.
A spokesman for the group said: "Christians have rights of freedom of expression to tell people about the Lord Jesus in public forums.
"This right is protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950).
"We are aware of attempts - some intentional and some because public officials do not know the law - to prevent such preaching.
"Often this is because of hostility to the message of the church and hostility to Christianity."
For details of Mr Williamson's mission, visit joshwilliamson.org
A spokesman for Greenwich Council said: “Following a number of complaints from individuals and businesses in the town centre about the level of noise being amplified into the street, Royal Borough wardens approached the speaker and politely requested that the volume be reduced.
“The request was appropriate, proportionate and in response to genuine complaints from town centre visitors.
"Wardens did not aim to offend the speaker, his beliefs or the content of his message, but merely sought to reduce the volume at which the message was being communicated.”