After long discussions with the council and deliberations by them we have been banned from witnessing in the Elizabeth Street Mall on threat of arrest if we persist. As I wrote previously we are looking for advice currently on options for challenging this ruling and what the implications for a court challenge are. Please be in prayer for us and all Christians in Hobart as the government here is becoming increasingly belligerent in its opposition to public expressions of Christianity.
This Friday I obtained a permit for witnessing in Franklin Square, a small park bracketed by the two major roads through town. It was a rainy day and quite cold so I was expecting to have little success with conversations but I hoped that I would be able to hand out some tracts to the people in the bus station. With many faithful Christians appealing to God I was also hoping that God would act to exceed what I thought would naturally tend to happen.
On arriving I decided rapidly that preaching would be out of the question for the day, the only audience I would have is the local seagulls and pigeons. As they have no need for a saviour I went to the bus station and handed out tracts and tried to speak to my fellow dying men and women of Hobart. For the following two hours I had a constant stream of people who took tracts and one or two short conversations with people in the bus station. A couple of Christians from my church stopped to say hello and encourage me in the work, this is always a great lift to my spirits.
At the end of the time I bumped into two friends who also identified themselves as Christians. We had an encouraging talk and I urged the young man in particular to consider carefully the particulars of our faith and make sure that he was walking faithfully with the Lord.
There were encouragements today but I am hopeful form more people to hear the gospel and for there to be an opportunity to speak to more people and possibly gather a crowd to preach the gospel to them. God willing we will be able to build this area into a Speakers Corner that people come to to hear the preaching much like in London.
It was a wet and windy Friday afternoon as Adam, Andrew, Paul and I gathered to share the eternal gospel with the lost of Hobart in the Elizabeth street mall. I was expecting that there would be opposition today from the Hobart City Council just as there had for the previous six months. I was not disappointed on that count and even the Hobart police force became involved in attempting to prevent us preaching the good news.
Previously we have been harassed by the council who informed us that we need a permit to preach and hand out tracts in the mall and we were breaking the by laws. I investigated this thoroughly and the only relevant law that could be construed this way was one forbidding political meetings in the mall. There are several laws relating to religious activity in car parks around the city, but as the mall does not count as a car park I disregarded these laws. In spite of this the council persists in pointing to their conditions of use document which explicitly forbids preaching, one to one witnessing and tracting in the mall, the conditions of use document then points back to the by laws as a basis for the restrictions. This circular reasoning is used regularly to restrict freedom of religion in Hobart.
We began the day with handing out tracts and talking with people in various places in the mall. I always rejoice to see tracts in the hands of people and often seeing them reading or showing them to friends.
I found a convenient place to preach from behind a wind break which thankfully also acted as a sounding board and allowed me to project my voice down the mall. I began to preach using the recent budget and other financial concerns globally. From this regular concern for most people I turned to what God’s word says on the matter, in particular the comments in Mt 6 on money and the other common modern preoccupation - worry. The Bible is plain on this count, greed is only another form of idolatry and worry is distrust of God at best and practical atheism at worst. We are commanded to worship God only and when we refuse to do this we become guilty. Judgement/Gospel/Appeal
Adam preached for first time – death and certainty of judgement and need of the gospel.
Council officers approached Adam when preaching – need a permit. Referred to me, tried discussion but not interested, they called the police. Left saying we were God-botherers
Police arrived after Adam finished and we were talking and handing out tracts. Told complaint had been made and we were breaking the bylaws. Also told were breaking the public disorder laws by preaching/making noise/offending people. Discussed laws and police became very antsy and upset with this and I was told to become a police officer if I wanted to know the law so much.
Clarification sought at the Police station, inspector informed us that the same things apply
Council by laws should be upheld
We were breaching public order laws – contradictory
We were not being discriminated against as it applied to all “not just you”
We are seeking legal information and political approaches to resolve this matter quickly