Police stop Cafe Owner displaying bible texts

Police tell cafe owner: Stop showing Bible DVDs, or we will have to arrest you

Inquisition: Jamie Murray, owner of Salt and Light cafe, has been threatened with arrest, for displaying passages from the Bible on a TV screen
Inquisition: Jamie Murray, owner of Salt and Light cafe, has been threatened with arrest, for displaying passages from the Bible on a TV screen.

Jamie Murray was warned by two police officers to stop playing DVDs of the New Testament in his cafe following a complaint from a customer that it was inciting hatred against homosexuals.

Mr Murray, 31, was left shocked after he was questioned for nearly an hour by the officers, who arrived unannounced at the premises.

He said he had turned off the Bible DVD after an ‘aggressive inquisition’ during which 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.’

The Salt and Light cafe in Blackpool has for years repeatedly played the entire 26-hour-long Watchword Bible, a 15-DVD set produced in America in which a narrator reads the whole of the New Testament, on a small flatscreen TV on the back wall. The sound is turned down but the words flash on to the screen against a series of images.

The cafe, which opened eight years ago, also prides itself on being an oasis of calm in a high-crime area of Blackpool.

Mr Murray said the two uniformed officers from Lancashire Constabulary arrived at lunchtime on Monday, the cafe’s busiest time of day. WPC June Dorrian, the community beat manager, told him there had been a complaint and he was breaching the Public Order Act 1986.

Mr Murray said: ‘I told them that all that appeared on the screen were the words of the New Testament. 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 the WPC 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.” ’

Mr Murray, who worked in a homeless shelter for five years before taking over the cafe three months ago, said he realised the only way to appease the police was to pull the plug on the Bible.

‘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.’

Mr 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. (Romans 1:26-28 which denounces homosexuality)

Lancashire Police said they had received a complaint on Saturday afternoon from a female customer who was ‘deeply offended’ by the words she had seen on the screen.

The Christian Institute, which is supporting Mr Murray, said its lawyers had told him he is free to display the Bible in any way he chooses, and they are preparing a complaint against the police. The Institute’s spokesman Mike Judge said: ‘I have no problem with the police looking into a complaint, but once they realised it was just the words of the Bible being shown on the screen then they should have walked away.

‘They did not even look at the offending DVD. They simply told Mr Murray that he had to stop showing the Bible and warned him that they would continue to monitor what he was doing. This is intimidatory and completely unacceptable.

‘It is a problem right across the country that the police are under huge political pressure to be seen to respond to anything homophobic.’

Lancashire Police said they had received a complaint on Saturday afternoon from a female customer who was ‘deeply offended’ by the words she had seen on the screen.

A spokesman said 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 offence.

However, it also says criticism of sexual conduct ‘shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred’.

A police spokesman said: ‘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 and our officers are always available should the cafe owner want to discuss the matter or need any advice in the future.

‘The Constabulary is respectful of all religious views. However, we do have a responsibility to make sure that material that communities may find deeply offensive or inflammatory is not being displayed in public.

‘No complaint has been received about the conduct of the officer in question and we are satisfied that they performed their duties professionally.’


4 thoughts on “Police stop Cafe Owner displaying bible texts

  1. I’ve been bullied by (Australian) police in much the same manner, although over a different issue. But the feeling was the same. I was a law-abiding citizen, in a public place minding my own business. I was questioned in an extremely aggressive manner, by men younger than me, who took the line that I was guilty and had to prove my innocence–and of course none of my answers were satisfactory. In the end I did what this cafe owner did, and behaved in the way they wanted me to, since I had a real fear of being arrested and gaining a police record, despite the fact that I was innocent (and was even a potential witness to the crime they were pursuing, but they ignored that).
    It was a very traumatic experience and shook me up for quite a while. But it taught me an important lesson: Below the surface of our liberal, democratic everyone-is-equal nations lurks the spirit of fascism, just waiting for an opportunity to be legitimatised. Many police want to help the community, but there are equally many more who enjoy being bullies, and can do so in uniform, on behalf of the state. So don’t be surprised if, as the religious freedoms of liberal democracies are gradually wound back, there are more and more stories of police bully-boy tactics against peaceable, law-abiding Christians.


  2. when others post offensive material and chritians complain, we are told we are intolerant. when we supposedly post “offensive” biblical material we are in the wrong. when we are inoffensive we are in the wrong. actually we are just plain simply in the wrong for believing there is such a thing as truth! The worl hates us because it first hated Him! we better start getting ready for it and why is anyone surprised?


  3. The truth of the Gospel of the New Testament and the righteousness of God will be offensive to those who are bound by the darkness of sin. Christ said in John 3 that the darkness hates the light.
    For too long most of the church in the west has tried to be acceptable to the world. In so doing, we have put our light under a bushel. We have allowed the darkness to grow by not brightly shining the light. Now, when one is courageous enough to lift the bushel, the light is blinding to those in the dark and they hate it.
    Fortunately, our forefathers were wise enough to legally give us the right to free speech. However, we will likely soon lose that as well, for those who hate the light have learned to pervert justice and twist the law in an effort to extinquish the light.
    I would encourage those who are walking and living in the light to let their lights shine brightly – even in the face of increasing hatred and persecution. As the darkness increases, it is ever important that the light shine brightly and clearly.
    I believe we will see open and even law-enforced persecution of true Christianity in the future. Let us labour faithfully for the Kingdom of Christ while we have the freedoms we have – and continue when we have no freedoms left. Christ promised that as we go forward in His Truth and Righteousness we have His promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.


  4. 10″ Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ” [Matthew 5:10-12; NIV 1984]


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