Street preacher

The decision by the Alexandrina Council to grant an enthusiastic Christian a permit to preach in the town’s central park has the potential to divide the community.
Mayor Keith Parkes used his casting vote in a deadlocked chamber to allow David Richardson a six-week opportunity to preach in the amphitheatre of the Solders’ Memorial Gardens from 10am-6pm, seven days a week.
That is an extraordinary amount of time for an individual and one which has the potential to alienate many of the park’s users.
Mr Parkes said he was swayed to support the application through a fear of litigation from either Mr Richardson or his supporters on the grounds of denying him his freedom of speech.
This relegates to a distant second the freedom of the many residents and tourists who want to use the popular park in peace.
If it is a decision based on a fear of litigation rather than what the council believes is best for the community then it is the community which loses.
The designated amphitheatre is across the narrow stretch of water from the most popular spots in the park – one which many people frequent in the summer months to enjoy a picnic and let their children feed the ducks and run around on the grass.
It is also near the public toilets where tourist  buses stop to allow their passengers to stretch their legs and give them time to take in the delightful ambience of this historic tourist town.
Street preaching is by its very nature a loud and passionate pastime.
If the council’s litigation fear was so strong then why not place Mr Richardson in a bustling section of the town so he not only has a constant stream of passers-by but will not impinge on the those seeking to relax?
If people wish to seek religion they know where to find it and need only go to a host of churches in Strathalbyn on either Saturday (Seventh Day Adventists) or Sunday.
Given the council’s decision one must wonder what the authority would do if an Islamic devotee also wanted to spread the word … or perhaps a representative from the Rainbow Flag Appreciation Society given the recent kerfuffle?
That too is freedom of speech.
Allowing a tranquil community space to be used for such purposes is not in the best interests of the wider community.