Northern Ireland news

Banbridge preacher claims opponents of street evangelism are 'trying to weaponise the PSNI against us'

The PSNI is investigating complaints that comments made by street preachers in Banbridge amounted to hate crimes

A PREACHER has claimed that critics of street evangelism in Co Down are trying to "weaponise the PSNI and other agencies against us".

The PSNI is investigating complaints that comments made by street preachers in Banbridge amounted to hate crimes.

It is understood that the comments referred to gay people, children with disabilities and their parents.

One woman told the Banbridge Chronicle she was appalled by the "language, content and volume".

Ryan Williamson, who regularly preaches in the town, disputed claims that comments had been made about children with disabilities and their parents.

There is no suggestion that Mr Williamson made any such comments.

He told the newspaper that preaching in the town "has been practised regularly for well over 60 years".

Mr Williamson claimed that anti-Christian sentiment was behind the complaints.

He said preachers had been spoken to by police four times this year alone for "alleged hate incidents".

"This long held, and once honoured calling is now in danger of becoming a criminal offence," he said.

"The current legislation which is leaning more and more towards the affirmation of gay rights has offered the opportunity for those who oppose Bible-believing Christians to weaponise the PSNI and other agencies against us."

Banbridge Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Savage told The Irish News last week that some of the preaching was "bordering on the offensive".

"We have freedom of speech but if you want to preach, do it in a church or church hall where you have a willing audience," he said.

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