“Sensationalist” reports cause Christians to think they are not free to proselytise, according to a new resource that urges the public sharing of faith.
Speak Up was launched by the Evangelical Alliance (EA) and the Lawyers Christians Fellowship (LCF) on Friday and aims to persuade Christians they have the law on their side when it comes to sharing their faith in public. The guide on what the law says and how to share your faith in public and at work suggests Christians have “very considerable” freedom to preach the gospel in the UK.
The pamphlet admits there are “qualifications” on speaking about faith but insists: “You have a lot more freedom than you may think.”
David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said there was a “chill factor” among Christians and a perception they “couldn’t or shouldn’t share their faith in public life”. He told Christian Today this came from court cases “being reported or presented in a sensationalist fashion”.
Mark Jones, chair of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and co-author of the resource, said he hoped it would “remove the fear that people have of sharing their faith”. He said this fear is “justified in one sense because there are scary headlines out there”.
But he added it “may not be justified in reality because beyond the headlines when you read the full judgments in cases that have ruled against Christians you will often find there is some aspect of their conduct that was not appropriate. Perhaps they abused a position of authority or there was inappropriate physical contact.”
He went on to say that, with some notable exceptions, most press releases from campaigning organisations bringing court cases “have an underlying motive” and “very rarely convey all the facts a lawyer would want to know”.
Christian Concern, a charity that fights religious freedom cases on behalf of Christians, said it welcomed the booklet and called it a “useful resource”. Spokesman Tim Dieppe said that although there are extensive legal freedoms “the difficulty is that the law is often not applied correctly”.
He told Christian Today: “We have street preacher cases where they have been arrested first and asked questions later. It is only then we have managed to prove they haven’t done wrong and then they are released.
“So yes the law does protect Christians sharing the gospel but it does not protect you from overly zealous police officers nor from being accused of saying something you didn’t.”
The resource said evangelism is “not a problem” for society but a sign of “health and freedom” that should be “celebrated, not denigrated”. Landrum told Christian Today: “Evangelism is the bedrock for religious freedom which in turn is the bedrock for all kinds of other freedoms like the freedom of conscience and freedom of speech.
“It’s often presented as a problem and actually it is a sign of a really healthy society.” He warned that if Christians didn’t use their freedom to preach they may lose it.
Pete Greig, founder of 24-7 Prayer International, said there was no “need to be ashamed of the gospel in the UK today”. He said there was “a great deal of scaremongering and misinformation about our right as Christians in the UK to share our faith in Jesus”.
He added the booklet “helps bring clarity where there may be confusion. It’s time to stand up to the bullies, not to shut up but rather to ‘Speak Up’ for Jesus without fear of legal reprisal.”