Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has urged the Northern Ireland authorities not to prosecute anti-LGBT preacher Ryan Williamson who was arrested after he refused a police request to stop preaching.
Mr Williamson, a businessman who chooses to spend his time travelling throughout the island of Ireland telling anyone who will listen that LGBTQ+ activists have infiltrated the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and that same-sex relationships are incompatible with Christianity.
Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, Peter Tatchell said, “From what I have heard, he was not abusing, threatening or harassing anyone. The altercation appears to have been the result of heavy-handed policing, not the preacher’s act of preaching. His preaching does not seem to have been disorderly.
“In a democratic society, disagreeable opinions should be challenged but not subjected to repressive police action. I am sure the PSNI and prosecution service meant well but they appear to have overstepped the law in this case. I urge prosecutors to think again. I cannot see how this prosecution is either fair or in the public interest.”
Two police officers approached Mr Williamson on 10th August last year following complaints from several members of the public. They asked him to stop preaching and he refused, leading to his arrest for disorderly behaviour. While Northern Ireland has no specific hate-crime legislation, a video of the incident conforms that one of the attending officers repeatedly warned Mr Williamson that his preaching constituted hate speech.
Unexpected opposition to Mr Tatchell came from Catholic Priest Pat Buckley, who commented, “I am glad to hear [of the prosectution] because I think there is a difference between preaching the gospel and preaching hate.
“And even if your religion makes you think hatefully I think the state shouldn’t allow you to express that and hurt other people. We all have our beliefs, but I think we have a duty to express them as kindly as we can.”