Uxbridge Magistrates' Court acquitted Pastor John Sherwood of Penn Free Methodist of all charges after a year of detention for allegedly causing "alarm and distress" to some passers-by in London for preaching the biblical definition of marriage, which police considered a homophobic "hate speech."
The Christian Post reported that his defense was centered on Article 10 of the 1998 Human Rights Act which states "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority."
In his defense, Sherwood explained that he wasn't attacking or disparaging any individuals. His motivation was only to preach biblical truths, that whoever might be his hearers, might come in repentance and believe in Christ for eternal salvation.
"The trial was quite remarkable in that there was so much Scripture quoted in it. Pastor Sherwood was determined to impress upon the prosecution that everything that he ever preaches upon is grounded in the final authority of God's word, the Bible," wrote Pastor Peter Simpson, a colleague who's been with Sherwood that day.
"After the trial, the preacher and his supporters offered prayers of thanksgiving to God for the acquittal, and there sounded forth the words of the hymn, To God be the glory, Great things he hath done," Simpson continued.
Simpson narrated how a regular day of preaching the gospel together led to the arrest of the minister of a north London church last April 2021. He wrote, "I began the preaching and referred to the grave abandonment by our nation of its Christian foundations, and abandonment that has manifested itself in, for example, the redefinition of marriage."
"This redefinition is nothing less than an assault upon the Biblical revelation, which tells us that marriage can be only between one man and one woman," he explained.
According to him, the pastor had been arrested under "section 5 of the Public Order Act for using threatening or abusive words or behavior likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress" as the police received complaints from some passers-by about alleged homophobic hate speech.
Sherwood respectfully informed the police about his freedom of speech and continued preaching despite the complaints. Simpson said, "People are free to walk past and ignore him if they do not like what he is saying."
As Sherwood argued that he had no crime committed, an officer took away the Bible in his hand and pulled him from the steps. Then three officers quickly gathered around behind the minister's back to put handcuffs on his hands.
Simpson warned Christians to be watchful despite the favorable outcome of the trial. He said "Bible-believing Christians need to remain vigilant. The establishment needs to realize that public Christian testimony is part and parcel of British life, and our police forces need some basic education in the history of this nation. Open-air preaching is a longstanding feature of the British scene, and our Christianity-based culture and love of freedom."