Britainâ€™s most senior policeman has been urged to issue guidelines to his officers to protect Christiansâ€™ rights to free speech, amid claims they are suffering intimidation and discrimination from police.
Christian activists have called on Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to inform all his officers that it is legal to cite traditional Bible teaching which describes homosexuality as a sin when speaking in public.
The campaigners say free speech is under threat after a series of cases in which street preachers were arrested for delivering sermons which referred to the traditional Christian view of homosexuality.
It comes after Tony Miano, 49, was held by Met Police officers for almost seven hours, had his fingerprints and a DNA sample taken and was questioned about his faith, after delivering a sermon outside a shopping centre in Wimbledon, south-west London.
He took as his text a passage from Thessalonians on â€œsexual immoralityâ€ and listed homosexuality alongside â€œfornicationâ€ as examples of things he believed went against â€œGodâ€™s lawâ€.
Mr Miano was arrested under a clause of the Public Order Act which bans â€œinsultingâ€ words or behaviour after a passer-by complained to police.
The American, a former deputy sheriff in Los Angeles, was eventually released without charge but later said his experience suggested that â€œthought policeâ€ had become a reality in Britain.
Andrea Williams, the director of the CLC, has written to Sir Bernard insisting that human rights laws allow Christians to express their genuinely-held views without fear of arrest, providing they do not incite a breach of the peace.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is representing Mr Miano, points out in its letter that Sir Bernardâ€™s officers took no action against a woman who told Mr Miano to â€œ**** offâ€ but arrested the preacher for reading from the Bible.
In the letter, seen by The Telegraph, Mrs Williams says: â€œWe formally request that you issue guidance to all officers immediately that the Bible message on the â€˜sin of homosexualityâ€™ is lawful.
â€œCurrently, the police appear to enforce the law to silence the viewpoint that homosexual conduct is a sin. This conduct by the police is unlawful and amounts to a systemic pattern of discrimination against Christians.â€
Mrs Williams suggested Christians were becoming â€œfearfulâ€ of expressing their lawful views because of the policeâ€™s â€œintimidatory tacticsâ€.
The CLC said there had been at least 16 cases of Christians being arrested for expressing their views on homosexuality over the last 11 years.
Mrs Williams said: â€œWe would like to see clear guidance from the Metropolitan Commissioner that Christians preaching from the Bible that homosexual conduct is sinful is lawful free speech.
â€œThe police officers in this case found that the complainant saying â€˜**** offâ€™ was non-offensive and lawful, but that the evangelistâ€™s preaching from the Bible was an arrestable offence.
â€œFree speech is under threat and we need to protect it. We hope that the Commissioner will take a lead in this.â€
Mr Miano has instructed Paul Diamond, the human rights barrister, to act for him in the case.
It is understood the CLC will launch judicial review proceedings against Scotland Yard if Sir Bernard fails to issue the guidance to officers.
The group is also asking the Association of Chief Police Officers to draw up guidelines for police officers in other forces across England and Wales.
Christians demand free speech guidance from Scotland Yard chief