Samuel Morrison: CPS stance on quoting the Bible is a major cause for concern

Last month I had occasion to travel to Lewes in East Sussex. By happy coincidence, I was there over Bonfire Night, November 5.
Samuel MorrisonSamuel Morrison
Samuel Morrison

Guy Fawkes Night in Lewes provides one with many spectacular sights which can take the chill out of even the wettest and coldest winters.

Thousands of people, many dressed in historical costumes ranging from First World War soldiers and Suffragettes to English Civil War Roundheads while others wear the traditional striped jumpers of the bonfire societies, parade with blazing torches while others race with fiery tar barrels along the cobbled streets.

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The multiple parades on the night are interspersed with brass bands with musicians wearing miner’s style lights strapped to their heads to illuminate their music.

Fiery crosses are paraded through the streets of Lewes in East SussexFiery crosses are paraded through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex
Fiery crosses are paraded through the streets of Lewes in East Sussex

The eagle eyed Orange observer will even be able to spot a banner displaying the image of William III.

And while the unsuspecting spectator runs the risk of encountering the fate of my daughter and being struck in the face by a piece of an exploding banger, the spectacle is by her estimation at least worth the risk.

All of that happens before one even gets to the highlight of the evening, the multiple firework displays which light up the night sky until well after midnight.

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That’s not to say Bonfire Night in Lewes is without its critics. If one thinks controversy about what is burned in public is limited to Northern Ireland they clearly aren’t familiar with the 5th in East Sussex.

But there is one aspect of the parade which is not as controversial as it may at first appear.

A perennial feature of Bonfire Night in Lewes are seventeen fiery crosses which are paraded through the streets.

The crosses have nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan however. Each of them represents one of the Protestant martyrs burned in the town during the reign of the infamous Bloody Mary between 1555 and 1557.

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Nine of the martyrs perished in a single fire on June 22, 1557 in the largest single bonfire of people that ever took place in England.

Details of the lives and alleged crimes of the martyrs of Lewes are limited. John Foxe, whose famous Book of Martyrs helped shape the English character for generations, is surprisingly light on detail about the martyrs of Lewes simply because many of them were executed without trial and there simply wasn’t the paper trail which could be found for some of the 280-plus Protestants consigned to flames in various parts of England during Mary’s reign.

The first of the martyrs, Dirick Carver, is an exception. Foxe includes details of his trial and an account of how he threw his Bible into the assembled townsfolk of Lewes before the flames enveloped him.

In spite of the obvious risks involved the people refused demands from the authorities to throw the Bible back into the flames and it survived at least into the 20th century.

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We can be thankful that such events are consigned to the history books but it is worth recalling what sacrifices were once paid by those who dared to possess a Bible and articulate the views which formed as a result.

This thought occurred to me when I read Adam Kula’s report on the comments of the Crown Prosecution Service in a case against a street preacher.

The CPS claimed that the Bible’s comments on homosexuality are offensive and “contains material recognising slavery (Exodus 21:7), the death sentence (Exodus 35:2 and Leviticus 24:16) and cannibalism (Deuteronomy 28:27).”

They would appear to be on the side of those who wanted to consign Carver‘s Bible to the flames as they claim “there are references in the Bible which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public."

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That the CPS takes upon itself to attack quoting the Bible in a lazy fashion - without even bothering to check the references - should concern all who value free speech.

If we are unconcerned by such we are dangerously close to the territory of those who burnt crosses for more sinister reasons than remembering the Lewes martyrs.

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