*NB – After sending this release, it came to our attention that it contains a factual error (paragraph 6). Mr Miano was not asked whether “he would give a hungry homosexual person something to eat” but rather whether he would help a homosexual person who asks him for a “favour”. This error came about because this press release was based on Mr Miano’s own recollection of events, understandably affected by the stressful nature of his arrest. A transcript of the police interview was attached to the original press release, which contains the correct form of the question.*
Police arrested a man in South West London on Monday (1st July) for using “homophobic” speech whilst street preaching. He is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre.
Tony Miano, a US citizen, was questioned by the police after a member of the public called them to the scene.
He had been speaking on the subject of sexual immorality and the need to abstain from it based on a passage from the Bible (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12).
Mr Miano was then arrested at 4:40pm and taken to the local police station where he was photographed, fingerprinted and had a DNA sample taken. He was taken to a cell with a toilet but no toilet paper.
The investigating officer offered him a £90 fine which he said would ensure Mr Miano’s immediate release and an assurance that he would be able to return to the UK. Mr Miano opted to wait for the arrival of his solicitor before making a decision.
He was then later interviewed by the investigating officer with his solicitor, Michael Phillips, instructed by Christian Legal Centre, present. One of the questions the officer asked was whether he would give a hungry homosexual person something to eat. Mr Miano replied that he would.
The two final questions that the officer asked him were: "Do you feel that what you did... is 100 per cent acceptable in a public place?“ and “Will you do this again tomorrow?” Mr Miano replied affirmatively to both questions. The investigating officer told Mr Miano’s solicitor that his answers to these last two questions left him no choice but to seek prosecution.
He was then escorted back to his cell and was given, upon request, a Bible to read – the very book whose teachings had led to his arrest.
About an hour later, the investigating officer entered Mr Miano’s cell and told him that the inspector had decided to release him with no further action. At midnight Mr Miano was released after just over seven hours in custody.
Mr Miano said: “The language I used was not homophobic, as I was not promoting fear or hatred of homosexuals. I began my message by assuring the people that mine was not a message of hate but of love. I was simply explaining a passage in the Bible which speaks of sexual immorality and that people should abstain from it (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12).
“I did not speak solely about homosexuality as a form of sexual immorality but also about any kind of sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman, as well as lustful thoughts. All of these are considered mainstream Christian positions and have been taught and believed by Christians for thousands of years.
“It was very distressing to be arrested and interrogated for openly expressing my deeply held Christian beliefs."
Mr Miano plans to send a letter to every member of both Houses of Parliament, expressing his concerns about diminishing free speech in the UK and his fears that the proposed legislation redefining marriage will lead to an increasing number of cases like his.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, believes that Mr Miano’s arrest has great significance in light of the current passage of the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
She said: “If we continue on the current trajectory, Tony’s arrest will simply be the first of many.
“No assurances that the government gives will be enough. It is ridiculous to think that if the same sex marriage Bill goes through these kinds of incidents will magically cease. It’s clear that there is already a clampdown on freedom of speech where people publicly express mainstream Christian views on sexual ethics.
“At the Christian Legal Centre we are ready to serve anyone who is challenged for expressing their Christian beliefs. We are ready to fight for freedom of speech and the right to preach the gospel.”
For further information/interview: Andrea Minichiello Williams - 07712 591164