American evangelist jailed in Glasgow
Shawn Holes, one of a team of around 20 American street preachers was arrested in Glasgow on charges relating to breach of the peace, sectarianism and homophobia. In response to the alternatives of being freed quickly or spending many weeks in Scotland awaiting trial he plead guilty and was fined the maximum of £1000.
Front page of the Daily Mail, Saturday 27 March, 2010
AN American street evangelist was arrested in Glasgow just over a week ago, charged with breach of the peace, sectarianism and uttering homophobic remarks. Shawn Holes was travelling and preaching with a team of around 12 American friends in cities throughout the mainland UK and in Ireland.
Whilst preaching publicly in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow on Thursday 18 March, he was surrounded by a group of people who asked him his views on Islam and homosexuality. In the course of responding to the questions put to him he said that homosexuality was a sin; and that everyone was a sinner.
Two police officers then took the views of persons in the crowd. Holes was then approached by the officers who said that they had had complaints and, after questioning him, they took the evangelist into custody.
The American Baptist then spent the night in jail and was brought before the court the next day. The legal advice given to him was that he would have a ‘pretty good chance’ of escaping a conviction. However he was also advised that if he plead not guilty then the process of the case being heard might take eight weeks or so, during which time he would have to stay in Scotland. It was explained to him that the other option was to plead guilty, in which case he would probably be fined around £50 and then released. In the event Holes plead guilty to the charges as his family was back in American, he had a father there who was ill and his daughter is to be married in the summer .
Shawn Holes and family prior to him coming to the UK
The Daily Mail carried the story on the newspaper's front page which continued on almost a full page within.
The editorial in the same edition of the paper gave the view: "Extremely serious issues are raised by the case of Shawn Holes, the Baptist street preacher fined £1,000 for uttering 'homophobic and sectarian remarks' while preaching in Glasgow. Mr Holes was questioned by homosexuals about his beliefs regarding homosexuality and Islam."
Commenting futher on the case the piece asked: "Are Christians now required to deny their faith, as in Nero's Rome, under laws passed by Holyrood? Would a Muslim preacher have been treated in the same fashion for expressing disbelief in Christ?" In calling for a review of the current legislation, the editorial concluded: '...in the longer term [we need] a critical reappraisal of the whole 'hate crime' concept".
A video of the recent UK outreach tour which Shawn Holes and his colleagues conducted
Subsequent comments on the case
Since the incident there have been a variety of responses on blogs from Christians on both sides of the Atlantic.
Scottish comments have ranged from appreciation of the Americans coming to Scotland to preach the Gospel, to heavy criticism of having created a very dangerous precedent (by pleading ‘guilty’) and leaving a mess behind for Scottish Christians to deal with.
Kevin Williams has expressed himself:
Shawn I love you, you know that but I think you (and anyone who advised you to take this action) have done very wrong in pleading guilty.
1) The police will now realize that they can do this to any Christians who preach there, and so this will encourage police to be hostile against the Gospel there in the future.
2) The unbelieveing public of groups hostile to the Gospel will now realize they can now get Christians arrested and heavily fined, and so this will encourage them to cause trouble.
3) Pleading guilty in this case is bearing false witness.
4) Enemies of the cross now have Christians admitting they hate homosexuals, and Catholics.
This is heart breaking news, and has caused massive problems for the preaching of the Gospel in Glasgow and who knows else where.
I wish I could have been there to help give counsel. I would have come up but to be honest this course of action in pleading guilty was totally unexpected and unthinkable.
But remember His blood is sufficient and His love for you does not change
Colin Bissett has written:
We Christians in Scotland preach Christ, we are not foolish enough to be drawn into arguments by those who oppose God on their own terms. Clearly the way that the Lord dealt with the parties who questioned him in Mark 11:27-12:41 is an example of the wisdom that is obviously lacking in the present case. Please do your homework before coming back to this country.
The commission of Christ is not to preach against homosexuality or any other sin you might choose to single out. Preach Christ and Him Crucified. The cross condemns all sin, of every hue. Quote the Scriptures rather than offer your own opinions.
Pleading guilty was a thoroughly stupid thing to do.I can’t think how, having provoked this situation you could have done anything to make it worse than you have. I deplore the fact that you are unwilling to make a stand for your convictions and have simply cut and run and left others to pay your fine (2 Cor. 11:9).
I say that not only as a Christian but as a lawyer who practices in our courts and feels that a dangerous precedent has now been set.
I can assure you that in 12 years of preaching Christ in the open streets while I may have had things thrown at me, dogs attacking me and abuse offered (and ignored) I have yet to be arrested.
A UK colleague of Holes (called Rob) has commented on the situations as they preached in Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow:
A blog respondent going by the name 'McMurdo' wrote:
Hello I was one of the brothers preaching with Shawn in Scotland . The minute we got there we encounter harassment from the police . It was like they never saw a street preacher before exercising his freedom of speech. Day after day in Glasgow only. We were harassed. We preached in Stirling and Edinburgh we had no problems preaching the gospel . We went back to Glasgow after preaching in Edinburgh on St. Patrick’s day . As soon as we got a crowd, the police where there . I look and I see the same guy calling the police a couple of days earlier .
The police took his statement shortly after they took Shawn to jail . The problem is Glasgow police had a bias toward us preaching the gospel it was obvious . We had lots of great conversation in Glasgow alongside the open air preaching . The gospel went forward not one person walk away from us thinking he was going to heaven because he was a good person . The whole counsel of God was preached .I would like to encourage my brothers in Christ that live in Scotland to pick up where we left off and preach the gospel in Glasgow. I pray God raises up teams to go out there and preach the gospel and warn people about the lie of Islam and homosexuality. When we were waiting for Shawn to get out of jail after we paid the fine. Me and some other brothers went back and preached in Glasgow and warn people about Islam and homosexuality . I would suggest you round up all the churches and head out there and preach the Gospel . Make a stand set the ground work for the next preacher .That is my prayer.
Heard you on Wretched Radio and from your account, you did not come across as condemning or unloving. I think some people were bringing the subject up to make mischief for you, knowing that the Police in the UK will *always* investigate allegations of ‘homophobia’.
I think people are being too critical here. I am deeply touched that our brother loves our country enough to leave his country and his family to bring the Gospel to the UK. As for the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the ‘guilty’ plea, I am just not worried. The Lord will use this for His glory. I am just thrilled that thousands of lost people have heard the gospel, received tracts and New Testaments. The result of this will only be known in eternity. I for one would not want to be kept away from my family for 2 months awaiting trial.
I am reminded of the situation the Salvation Army faced in their early years when they were preaching the gospel in the UK. They had all sorts of harassment from the police and local magistrates for preaching in the open air. They spent many nights in jail and some of their number were even martyred. Read ‘The General Next to God’.
I want to finish by saying 3 things.
1. Brother Shaun thank you SO MUCH for coming to the UK. I for one appreciate what you did and one day I hope I meet you one day and shake your hand and thank you face to face.
2. I want to apologise on behalf of my country for the way you were treated. I am English, my wife and her family are Scottish, from the Glasgow area, and I am ashamed of the way you were treated by the authorities. We Brits owe you Americans a great debt for the spiritual blessings you bring us.
3. Please don’t be put off from coming here again. Of course we all need to be wise, gentle, loving and so on. **And** we need to preach the gospel boldly and clearly as Jesus commands. The same goes for anyone in the US who has the right motives.
Shawn Holes leaving the court in Glasgow
Comment: Whatever the longer term or more widespread ramifications of this incident it is yet another example of a country (Scotland and the UK) which is increasingly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. It is difficult to see anything other than increasing judgment come upon us.
The natural response to this incident might be that of an angry reaction or, alternatively, to feel intimidated and fearful. However the Lord of the church would surely have us behave in a mature yet fearless manner.
Footnote: The response facility below is open for further comment, however it is advisable to listen to interviews with both Shawn Holes and one of his colleagues to appreciate the background and further details surrounding the case. The evangelists filmed their work: however the video film was confiscated by the police.
Shawn Holes interview (35 mins) Colleague of Holes (Robert) giving background information (6 mins)
Both of these interviews are well worth listening to.
See here other reports about difficulties faced by other street outreach activies.