Commenting on the decision of the CPS to drop charges against a Christian street preacher who condemned homosexuality, and the intervention on his behalf by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, said:
"Freedom of speech, in spite of offense or irresponsible rhetoric, is vital to a healthy society. Many Christians - alongside people of other faiths and none - will deplore the kind of views expressed by Mr McAlpine, but will also rigorously oppose attempts to criminalise them.
"In the Gospel accounts, the founder of Christianity - who strongly condemned the misuse of religion as a means of oppressing people - encouraged his friends and supporters to love their enemies, to do good to those who directed hate at them and to bless those who cursed them. Peter Tatchell, who has deep atheist convictions, has nonetheless shown Christians the way forward at a time when many are keen to talk up offense, to claim they are being marginalised, and to use the law to suppress views they do not like.
"It would be good to see church and religious organisations similarly speaking out for people like Harry Taylor, who was recently sentenced to six months in prison (suspended for two years) for leaving anti-religious cartoons in an airport prayer room - in a case which should similarly disturb all who value open expression."