A Christian pastor in the United Kingdom was told by the local police that if he offends the LGBT community with a social media comment he could be breaking the law, even though a pro-LGBT mob threatened to burn down his church.
Christian Concern, a UK persecution watchdog, reports Pastor Josh Williamson of Newquay Baptist Church, was warned by police to keep his views in a "safe environment" after being targeted by a wave of anti-Christian abuse, including threats of violence and calls for his church to be burnt down.
Last month, Williamson, 34, replied to a post on a local news outlet's Facebook page that reported this year's Cornwall pride event would be canceled. Williamson simply wrote, "Wonderful news!" under the post.
When he was questioned about his comment by another user, he replied, "because I don't think sin should be celebrated."
Answering more questions from other users, Williamson quoted what the New Testament says regarding homosexuality from the books of John, James, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
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Then on his personal Facebook page, he shared the news article and wrote, "Hallelujah!! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be canceled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organizers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered."
Cornwall Pride organizers saw Williamson's personal page, took a screenshot of the post, and then tagged Newquay Baptist Church and posted it along with negative comments made by other users about gay pride. They then blocked out the names on each comment, making it appear that all of the comments were posted by the pastor.
The pastor's wife also received online threats and his head was superimposed onto an image of homosexual pornography, which was then shared online.
The LGBT group then called on their supporters to report the pastor to the police for a hate speech/crime. Activists also made several threats, including protesting at the Newquay church's Sunday services, having the church's charity status revoked by the government, as well as threatening to have Williamson deported back to his native Australia.
Following the threats, Williamson was invited to a meeting with two members of the Cornwall pride group, which he accepted to share his beliefs. During the meeting, he shared his Christian beliefs and welcomed members of the LGBT community to attend his church. Before leaving the meeting, he asked permission to leave a leaflet with the pair on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Images of the leaflet were later shared widely throughout the local LGBT community, creating the illusion the pastor was distributing the leaflet. This resulted in further calls for police to investigate the pastor for a "hate crime."
A post for one LGBT group called for Newquay Baptist Church, which often houses families, to be burnt down. Another user agreed, responding: "LETS BURN A CHURCH! LETS BURN A CHURCH."
Another user also threatened to perform a mass sexual orgy at the church, calling on the group to assault anyone who handed them the leaflet.
Williamson reported the threats to the Devon and Cornwall Police, who have been sponsors of the gay organization in the past. He was told that the situation was "complex" and that they did not believe anyone with the group would act on their threats.
The police said that they were working with both sides to pacify the situation, but also told Williamson that he should make sure not to offend anyone in the LGBT community in the future to avoid breaking the law, according to Christian Concern.
The pastor said he and the members of his congregation will not remain silent.
"My family and I, and our church community, have been very concerned by the level of anti-Christian abuse and threats of violence that we have been targeted with over the past few weeks," Williamson said in a statement. "The police have not formally spoken to me about any hate crime or sought a witness statement to look at the various online comments which have included threats to burn down our church."
"As Christians, we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services. The Bible, however, proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ. It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God's Word says in relation to human sin, including all forms of sexual sin. We, therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin, but that God loves sinners and Jesus can forgive all our sins."
"Newquay Baptist Church is made up of sinners who have been forgiven by a wonderful Saviour; since this is the case, we would invite all people, including the LGBT community, to come to our services. Our desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus," the statement concluded.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is representing Pastor Williamson, said such threats against Christians who speak out against the LGBT community are becoming all to common in the UK.
"It's becoming worryingly common in the UK to see threats and calls for violence against Christians for voicing their simple opposition to LGBT Pride. Police forces should show Christians they take this seriously by protecting their free speech against mob threats rather than by seeking to keep Christians quiet," Williams said.
"Christians are called to repay evil with good – I have no doubt that Pastor Williamson will continue to share the reality of sin and the good news of Jesus Christ with the people of Newquay," she added.