A street preacher who claims he was arrested on June 10 and had his Bible and personal belongings briefly seized is warning of deteriorating religious freedom circumstances in the United Kingdom.
Ryan Schiavo, an American-born preacher, said he was ministering when he found himself in cops’ crosshairs.
“I went out in the streets to evangelize — that’s what I spend most of my time doing here, and we chose to go to the city of Canterbury,” he told CBN’s Faithwire, noting a young friend who wanted to learn more about street preaching accompanied him. “We went on a Saturday, and, upon our arrival, we saw rainbow paraphernalia pretty much everywhere in the city center.”
Schiavo said he quickly realized there was a Pride event unfolding and carried on with his ministry. He found a spot to preach and he began speaking about Romans 1, specifically verses 18 through 32.
“[I] began to talk about how God will bring judgment and wrath on society for sin, particularly sexual sin,” he said. “And did speak about the homosexual and LGBT agenda — the damage it’s doing to society, how God views this.”
Schiavo said “within a short period of time” a crowd came around him, with supporters and detractors taking part. At one point, the evangelist said he was having a productive talk with a member of the LGBTQ community when a handful of police officers came on the scene.
“One was quite verbally aggressive with me from the very beginning,” he said. “He was not even close to unbiased [and] began trying to incriminate me with questions [and] intimidate me.”
Schiavo continued, “And it was very clear that he was taking the side of the LGBT community, and the Pride event, and he had basically no regard for my freedom of speech.”
He said the officer asked if he planned to stop, but Schiavo responded, “I don’t know if I’ll stop, because the Word has to be preached.” Schiavo added he’s always careful where he preaches and how he does it, as he wants to protect his witness and not share in an improper way.
Unfortunately, he said the chaotic situation resulted in his arrest.
“I was not in violation of any law,” he said. “The police arrested me. … he put the handcuffs on me so hard that I had marks on my wrists into the third day afterwards.”
Schiavo said police officers in the U.K. have become “out of control when it comes to LGBT,” noting symbolism has made its way onto patrol cars and inside cop trainings. As a result, he believes he wasn’t treated in a fair-minded way, adding his Bible, speaker, and other materials were reportedly taken.
“I was in custody for about 11 hours,” he said. “I was in the cell for probably nine and a half, 10 hours.”
Schiavo continued, “They took my Bible as evidence, along with my speaker, and my microphone, and my Gospel tracts.”
The preacher said he was initially released on bail with charges pending, and was told he couldn’t attending any other Pride events in June.
But authorities reportedly later backtracked.
“I did get a phone call five days later from the police that they had dropped the charges,” he said, noting he later got back his Bible and other items.
Schiavo said the situation in the U.K. is diminishing, likening it to the “early stages of communism,” and noting the scary circumstances surrounding what he sees as dire restrictions on speech.
The American-born preacher spends his time traveling and preaching quite a bit and said he simply wants to do “what God’s called” him to do.
“It’s a unique work,” he said. “It can be a very enjoyable and very rewarding work. … My main target is younger people.”
Schiavo spoke about the cultural pressures placed on young people and the negative messages they receive through schooling and social media, lamenting the “secular, atheistic culture” that’s been percolating of late.
“If we really love the Lord, we cannot accept this and just bow down before it,” he said. “To my American brothers and sisters, this is coming to our country. … We need to have a voice and stand up.”