Christian street preachers in free speech row as Labour-run Leeds city council introduces code of conduct over claims they’re using ‘hate speech’ and ‘homophobic’ language

  • Street preachers in Leeds city centre have been hit with a new code of conduct
  • The code says preachers should not use ‘hate speech’ including homophobic language
  • One preacher is appealing the code as he believes the council are trying to ‘shut him down’

Religious street preachers have been slapped with a new code of conduct after claims they have been using homophobic language and ‘hate speech’.

Members of the public and local businesses in Leeds raised concerns of hate speech from people who try to convert others to religion in the city centre.

It led to the Labour-run local council teaming up with West Yorkshire Police to issue a new code of conduct and tell preachers they are committed to respecting the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 10 rights to freedom of expression of all, but ‘recognise that this is a qualified right and may be limited to prevent disorder or crime.’

The code of conduct, seen by the MailOnline, says preachers should: ‘Refrain from using homophobic language or any other hate speech.’

‘It is an offence under the Public Order Act 1986 to use threatening, abusive or insulting words with the intention of causing a person to feel harassment, alarm or distress,’ it adds. 

One preacher is appealing the code of conduct as he thinks he is being ‘shut down’ from speaking and believes it is ‘out of the question’ that he would be barred from talking about LGBT issues, according to the Yorkshire Post.

The preacher, who has not been named, claimed his preaching was ‘thoroughly Biblical and in line with mainstream historic Christian doctrine.’ 

The code of conduct was introduced following reports of hate speech including homophobic abuse and is a direct response to concerns raised by the public and local business in Leeds (stock image)

Preachers are told in the code of conduct they must not use language which could be upsetting or alarming for young children.

The code warns they must keep their volume down and move to a different street every 90 minutes to avoid causing distress to nearby shop and office workers.

Those preaching could be told to hand over contact details to the council and police, as well as details of any church group they belong to. 

They should not block doorways, fire exits or pavements and must obtain a permit from the council if they wish to give out leaflets or any other printed material.

Labour-run Leeds city council (offices pictured) said the city is ‘diverse’ and ‘welcoming’ but hate speech will not be tolerated

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: ‘Leeds is a diverse and welcoming city and one where we want everyone to feel safe, Leeds City Council is committed to ensuring that no one should be exposed to hate speech of any form anywhere in Leeds.

‘The code of conduct was introduced following reports of hate speech including homophobic abuse and is a direct response to concerns raised by the public and local business.

‘Leeds City Council will continue to work with the police to ensure that hate speech has no place in the city.

‘Preachers may be reported to the police for any hate speech and to Leeds City Council’s anti social behaviour team for noise nuisance for high volume/repetitiveness.’

One in seven hate crimes was linked to homophobia in 2021, figures by West Yorkshire Police revealed. 

MailOnline has contacted West Yorkshire Police for comment.

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