After facing arrest and detention for preaching that homosexuality is a sin, an American evangelist is warning that “things are getting very bad” in the United Kingdom and other Western countries, suggesting that the situation has deteriorated to the point where they are “becoming communist.”
Ryan Schiavo, who describes himself as an “evangelist and missionary,” was arrested in London on July 22 for preaching that homosexuality is a sin. While Schiavo is an American, he spends a considerable amount of time in London and frequently ministers to British youth and others gathered in the public square.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Schiavo recounted the events leading up to his arrest and warned about its implications for free speech and freedom of religion in the U.K. and Western civilization as a whole.
“I was preaching the Gospel on the streets as I frequently do, but it was about a 30-minute message, and in the course of a long message I can touch on many topics that I believe are pertinent,” he said. “At one point, I talked about the issue of homosexuality and transgenderism. I said that homosexuality is a sin; I talk about how it’s destructive, and the damage the transgender agenda is doing to children right now in the schools because it’s being pushed on children at a very young age here.”
Schiavo told CP that one of the things he said while preaching was that “the churches that have rainbow flags on them” were “not real churches.” His message drew the ire of one young woman, whom he believed was a lesbian. According to Schiavo, she was “very upset at what I had said, and so she called the police and the police came.”
The law declares that “a person is guilty of an offense if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm, or distress, he — (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior, or disorderly behavior, or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting.”
As Metropolitan Police officers moved in to arrest him, Schiavo declared, “It is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ.” He predicted that “God is going to judge this country so severely” because of its embrace of LGBT ideology.
“This is because I am a Christian!” he exclaimed. “That’s why this is happening.”
Schiavo told CP that when he was taken to jail, he was "put in a cell for 10 hours and given a mental health evaluation by the National Health Service before being released in the middle of the night.” He lamented that situations like his “egregious” detention were becoming “all too common.”
Describing the mental health evaluation to CP, Schiavo maintained that he was asked “personal questions about my family and about my work and how I was doing physically.” Schiavo cited the fact that he had to undergo a mental health evaluation as evidence that “things are getting very bad” in the U.K. regarding freedom of speech and religious expression.
“All these institutions are working together with each other; they’re anti-Christ,” he added. “It’s time for the church to wake up and to be prepared for persecution. Freedom of speech and expression are very much under attack in the Western world, and I’m concerned that many of these Western countries are becoming communist.”
Elaborating on his mental health evaluation, Schiavo recounted that he “did talk about the issue of homosexuality and transgenderism” with the man who was questioning him. “I said to him, ‘Would you call a banana a carrot?’ And the point I was making was this is what we do with people now. We call men women and women men.”
“I didn’t say that to him. I just said, ‘Would you call a banana a carrot?’ And he looked at me and he said, ‘If somebody was offended, I would.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘I should be the one asking you the questions.’”
Schiavo contended that his mental health evaluation, which lasted for 30 minutes, was an effort to “convince me not to talk about homosexuality in public anymore.” He told CP that “he (the mental health evaluator) wanted me to affirm him and just say, ‘OK,’ and agree, and I never did.”
The evangelist attributed his hostile treatment by the police to the fact that British law enforcement officials are “so trained to hear ‘homosexuality’ or ‘Islam’ because those are the two most protected demographics in Britain right now.” He stressed that in the U.K., “you cannot speak against homosexuality or transgenderism and you can’t speak against Islam.”
“So if they hear those words, their antennas are up because they go through all of this pro-LGBT training … in their schooling, ... at every other level of society people do here, it’s being pushed on them,” he continued. “And so when they hear that word, they’re immediately thinking ‘hate crime,’ ‘hate crime.’”
Although he wasn't formally charged with a crime, Schiavo’s arrest puts him “in the national police records for three years.” He's now working with the U.K.-based Christian Legal Centre to “get this overturned.”
“I did not commit a crime,” Schiavo insisted. “It is not a crime in the U.K. to say homosexuality is a sin in public or to say that churches with rainbow flags on them are not churches. This is protected speech.”
In a separate interview with CP, Linda Thacker, who attends church with Schiavo when he's in the U.K. and videotaped the arrest, explained why she decided to document his interaction with law enforcement officials on camera: “I didn’t like the security guard’s attitude toward Ryan. He seemed very hostile.”
“We wanted to make sure that there was no kind of false accusation,” she said.
Thacker characterized Schiavo’s arrest as “a bit of a wake-up call for me,” expressing concern that “the right to have free speech and to express how we feel personally about … anyone else’s lifestyle … will put you in the position of being called a domestic terrorist or some kind of hater.” Like Schiavo, Thacker fears that the U.K. is “heading toward a communist state.”
Before his arrest, Thacker said there had been confrontations between Schiavo, his supporters and LGBT individuals that weren't captured on camera.
“The lesbian was very threatening and kicked his drink down the road. [She] also tried to tear my husband’s Bible out of his hands, which she didn’t manage to do, but she got a leaflet out of his Bible … and flung it into the street.”
While Schiavo did face hostility following his comments about homosexuality, he also received support, including from an atheist, who was featured in Thacker’s video. Schiavo told CP that while the man “said that he disagreed with 99% of what I said,” he nonetheless argued to the police that ‘This man has not done anything warranting … an arrest, he’s just exercising his freedom of speech.’”
In spite of the man’s impassioned defense of Schiavo, the street evangelist lamented that the police “never even took a statement from him.” Instead, Schiavo said, “the police only took one formal statement on the street … and it was from this young girl … [who] was upset with what I said.”
“From the beginning, they weren’t interested in getting to the truth. … It was just this one girl’s testimony that they listened to.”
Thacker seconded Schiavo’s accusation that police had conducted a one-sided investigation: “All they were interested in doing was arresting him on the grounds of this lesbian that said that she had been distressed by what was said.”
Schiavo is not the only street evangelist to face legal consequences for sharing Christian teachings about marriage and homosexuality with the British public. As CP previously reported, British Pastor John Sherwood was arrested by police in April for emphasizing the biblical definition of marriage as he preached from a step ladder in the Northwest London town of Uxbridge.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org