Yesterday, as he again returned to the cathedral to read aloud from the Bible, Mr Coote said: ‘I am not hurt or angry, but very surprised that St Paul’s would support the Occupy London people but not support the reading of the Bible.’
The Reverend Peter Simpson, a pastor at the Free Methodist Church in Penn, Buckinghamshire, said he endured a similar experience outside St Paul’s two years ago, when he and a colleague were ordered to leave. ‘We did not say anything inflammatory as far as I can recall,’ he said.
‘We were just preaching from the Bible but were told to move. We did not want to break the law so we moved to the edge of the grounds marked by bollards and preached from there.’
The Barnabas Fund, which campaigns against the persecution of Christians, has launched an online petition urging Parliament to intervene. Dr Martin Parsons, head of research at the charity, said: ‘This illustrates the slippery slope down which the UK is losing its heritage of religious freedom.
‘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.’
Well, you know, the Anglicans don’t want the Methodists – people who actually believe in the stuff – poaching their flock to be shorn, do they? As they have been for a few centuries now.