Christian café owner warned by police over Bible verse display

The owner of a Christian café has been told by police to stop displaying “offensive” Bible verses.

Police visited Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt & Light Coffee House in Blackpool last Monday following a complaint about “insulting” and “homophobic” material, according to The Christian Institute, which is advising Mr Murray.

The café has a TV mounted on the wall that displays verses of the Bible from a set of DVDs called the Watchword Bible.

The DVDs provide audio and text of the entire New Testament but the volume is turned down in the café.

Police told Mr Murray they had received a complaint about “insulting” and “homophobic” material being displayed in the café, although they did not tell him the specific texts relating to the complaint.

According to The Christian Institute, Mr Murray was told to stop displaying the Bible verses because it breached Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which forbids the display of offensive or insulting words.

He said: “I couldn’t believe the police were saying I can’t display the Bible. The officers were not very polite, in fact they were quite aggressive. It felt like an interrogation.

“I said ‘surely it isn’t a crime to show the Bible?’ But they said they had checked with their sergeant and insulting words are a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act. I was shocked.

“I’m not here to insult or offend anyone, but the Bible is the Bible. We’re always being told that we’re a tolerant and diverse nation. Yet the very thing that gave us those values – Christianity – is being sidelined.

“I’m not looking to make a name for myself, I’d rather be quietly getting on with running my café. But there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough.”

The Christian Institute is calling for the word “insulting” to be removed from Section 5 of the Public Order Act.

Spokesman Mike Judge criticised Lancashire Constabulary for its handling of the complaint. He believes their warning contravenes free speech and religious liberty.

“We’ve all seen the police stand by while extremist Muslims hold placards calling for infidels to be beheaded, but woe betides a Christian café displaying Bible texts," he said.

“Yes, the Bible speaks about morality, of course it does. But the Bible isn’t hate speech. Disagreement isn’t hatred. If a café customer dislikes parts of the Bible, the right response is to take their custom elsewhere – not dial 999.”

Mr Murray stopped displaying the verses while he sought legal advice but has since started running the DVDs again after receiving assurances that displaying Bible verses in public is not a crime.

Sam Webster, solicitor-advocate with The Christian Institute, said there may be grounds for a legal action against the police for infringing Mr Murray’s rights to free speech and religious liberty. The Christian Institute is advising him of his legal options.