U.K. Pastor Arrested After Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Comments Back on Stump With Politician's Support

The U.K. pastor arrested last month under Britain's Public Order Act for allegedly homophobic comments he made during a sermon on marriage is back on the stump preaching the Gospel to those who will listen.

He also has the backing of Heritage Party leader and London Assembly member David Kurten, who on Wednesday gave a short speech outside Uxbridge Station, where John Sherwood was arrested, about the freedom to preach in public, in support of the 71-year old pastor. Kurten, who is socially conservative, is a mayoral candidate in London.

"The treatment of pastor John Sherwood by the Metropolitan Police in Uxbridge was tyrannical," Kurten told Newsweek. He said Sherwood was simply speaking from the Bible and presenting the Christian viewpoint that marriage is between a man and a woman. "For this he was accused of a hate crime, arrested and imprisoned overnight. This abhorrent removal of free speech should never have happened in London."

For his part, Sherwood, a pastor at North London's Pilgrim Tabernacle, an evangelical independent church, said he too returned to the very same place outside Uxbridge Station in West London to preach from Scripture a week after his arrest.

"I do believe we ought to not decline in any way from the proclamation of the Gospel," Sherwood told Newsweek. On the day of his arrest, he added, he was simply speaking about the marital union between a man and a woman as expressed in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. His reference to that was construed as homophobic language and led to his detainment, he said.

Yet Sherwood, who is a grandfather and pastor of 35 years, remains undeterred from exercising what he said is not only his legal right but also his conscience and job as a pastor—to preach the gospel, whether it's inside a church or outside in the open air.

"Why should we kowtow to an agenda people seem to bring to incriminate those who believe in heterosexuality?" Sherwood asked. He noted that he never intended to hurt or offend anyone: "I said nothing against homosexuals."

Arrested for preaching from the Bible in North West London. Pastor Sherwood is 75, notice how the arresting officer kicks him? pic.twitter.com/iwAojPMaNm

— Christian Concern (@CConcern) April 27, 2021

On April 23, the pastor was led away in handcuffs by police, questioned and held overnight at a police detention center near Heathrow Airport. He was accused of making homophobic comments in the public square outside Uxbridge, a suburban town in West London. Local police said they had received more than one complaint that the pastor had made bigoted remarks directed toward gay people. An anonymous caller said the remarks were abusive or insulting words.

His arrest was warranted under Section 5 of Britain's Public Order Act because it caused alarm and distress, according to the police. The 1986 act seeks to "abolish the common law offenses of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and certain statutory offenses related to public order; to control public processions and assemblies; to control the stirring up of racial hatred."

But Sherwood adamantly denied making any remarks targeting gay people specifically and said he was preaching about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. He cited the Genesis passage about God creating man in his image, being both male and female. He also said he was talking about the husband and wife relationship and children, as well as the beauty of family.

 David Kurten and Pastor Peter Simpson
London Assembly member David Kurten, left, and pastor Peter Simpson appeared in the public square outside Uxbridge Station in West London on Wednesday in support of pastor John Sherwood, who was arrested there last month while giving a sermon. Patticia Newman

The incident led to a viral video that shows Sherwood standing on a step stool in the public square before police forcibly remove him. A woman recording the event can be heard denouncing the arresting police officers, one in particular, who aggressively grabbed Sherwood by the wrist and then pushed him before his hands were handcuffed behind his back.

The woman is heard saying, "You're on cover-up...you're on cover-up" several times, indicating she was filming. "For a man preaching about Christianity, look at how he's ripping him, look at how he's ripping him," she went on as a crowd gathered. Eventually, Sherwood was released, with no charges filed, after spending a night in a jail cell. Later, he said he suffered injuries to his wrist and shoulder from the incident.

Preaching publicly in that location is nothing new for Sherwood and fellow pastor Peter Simpson of Penn Free Methodist Church. The two have been going there every two weeks for approximately three years, Sherwood said. After Simpson was alerted about knife fights that were occurring at the location, the two pastors thought it was a place that needed ministry.

In a blog Simpson wrote for The Conservative Woman website, he gave a play-by-play account of the incident. He noted how a policeman at the scene explained that some matters cannot be referred to in public places because there is no freedom to make statements that offend people.

"I responded that the police would have no objection whatsoever to a Pride parade being held in Uxbridge, yet that would be highly offensive to Bible-believing Christians. The officer did not appear to appreciate the logic behind this argument. Furthermore, there is no law stating that people have a right never to be offended," wrote Simpson wrote.

A U.K.-based group, Christian Concern, which defends people of faith, said the incident sets a bad precedent for religious freedom of speech throughout the country.

Sherwood said that during his police interview he was asked about what would happen if he had children who were homosexual, a question that he said was irrelevant and, at the very least, inappropriate.

Still, he responded, "I would seek to win them to Christ. I would love them anyway because they're my children." He added, "They are trying to make out that Christians are against homosexuals in some way."

When a nurse entered his cell to loosen his handcuffs upon his request, she said the pastor "just had scratches."

"There was no real compassion there," Sherwood said.

Although Sherwood's Bible was taken away during his arrest, a police officer gave him one while he was in his jail cell, which helped him make the best of the situation, he said. "I found it a wonderful time to be alone in communion with my Lord," he added.

Still, he said he told the police that they were under a constitutional oath. "I reminded them that every monarch swears to maintain the royal law of God, under the crown," Sherwood said.

He also said teaching the Ten Commandments, and living by them, has eroded in the U.K.

"We've got this worship of science and technology now, which seems to have taken the place of God," Sherwood said. "With all these laws gradually changed, it's now becoming almost impossible to preach against sin. The time may well come that someone can actually incriminate me for preaching the Gospel."

Newsweek reached out for comment to the Metropolitan Police of Greater London but did not hear back before publication.