LONDON – Imagine, if you will, a 55-year-old man reading the Bible aloud in front of a church. Imagine that it is not just any church, but the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Then imagine that the church staff asking him to stop reading the Bible and leave the property, after which he was arrested. “Impossible,” you say. Actually, it is true.
Alan Coote is a London bus driver who wants to share the Word of God with others, but to do so without being a disruption.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is a major London tourist attraction. It has been the site of the weddings of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and the funerals of notables including Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. It is the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of London.
Coote did nothing but read from the Gospels. He did not preach or attempt in any way to disrupt any other activity outside the church. He has occasioned the grounds of St. Paul’s 11 times in the past several months. He has been asked to leave on 10 of those occasions.
A spokesperson for St. Paul’s claimed that the church has a policy of “limiting any form of public oration, protest, demonstration, preaching, or other source of disturbance.”
If the irony of preventing the Bible from being read on or in front of church property is not enough, the church completely disregarded its policy by allowing anti-capitalism protestors to camp outside the church doors for three months, even welcoming their right to protest. In fact, the canon chancellor of St. Paul’s asked the police to leave the Cathedral.
During one of the confrontation in April 2018, a three police officers spoke with Coote and a church staff member. One of the officers told the staffer, “I am of the opinion that this chap isn’t causing any breach of the peace. This chap isn’t impeding anyone. I am happy for him to stay here. This chap is reading from the Bible. I feel it would be remiss of me to move him on in a place of worship.”
On the most recent occasion, although he was confronted by police and ‘arrested,’ he was put into a police van and driven off only to be released from the van a few blocks away from the cathedral.
According to the Dr, Marting Parsons of the Barnabas Fund, an NGO that seeks to protect Christians from persecution, “One of the first aspects of freedom of religion to be established in England was the freedom to read the Bible in public. A Royal decree specifically forbade clergy from stopping anyone reading the Bible in public. Now St. Paul’s Cathedral is trying to stop someone reading the Sermon On The Mount in public.”
The Barnabas Fund has been urging Parliament to intervene in the matter. Since their intervention, St. Paul’s has acquiesced to allowing Coote to read the Bible in front of the church for one-half hour per week.
- The Times, Street preacher Alan Coote arrested outside St Paul’s Cathedral after staff complain
- Daily Mail, Lord help us! St Paul’s bans Christian reading from the Bible outside cathedral where it allowed anarchist rabble to camp in tent city for months
- The Telegraph, St Paul’s stop preacher from reading The Bible outside Cathedral
- The Christian Post, London Cathedral Bans, Then Limits Preacher From Reading Bible on Its Property
- By Eluveitie [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons