Friday, September 9, 2011

British Bus Company Stagecoach Asks LDS Missionaries Not To Proselyte While Riding Aboard Their Coaches In Lancaster

American missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes get a rude awakening when they assume America's constitutional liberties are equally treasured or applicable in foreign countries. A British bus company has asked the LDS Church to instruct local missionaries not to proselyte while riding aboard their buses.

The Lancaster Guardian reports that in response to complaints from passengers and drivers, the Stagecoach Bus Company has asked LDS missionaries to stop trying to convert passengers while riding aboard their coaches. The issue is that a bus is considered somewhat of a captive environment, and complainants believe the missionaries are exploiting it. One complainant, Rick Seymour, said “I firmly believe that the Mormon Church is using your service as a place where the public cannot escape the attempt to indoctrinate them.” While Seymour says he believes everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, he says that telling others that their beliefs are misguided or erroneous is wrong in itself. Brits place a greater attachment to not being offended than we do.

Stephie Barber, the operations manager for Stagecoach in Lancaster, said that they do not permit any commercial or other organizations to promote their products, services or views through direct engagement with passengers on their buses, and if someone representing an organization does so, they will take it up with the organization involved. This means they'll be contacting the local LDS leadership.

Robert Preston, England Manchester Mission President for the LDS Church, defended the missionaries' conduct, praising his 140 missionaries in the North West of England as being persistent and courageous. Specifically, he explained "They will sit next to someone, and they will introduce themselves and try and have a good conversation to explain a point of view that someone might never have heard before. We do encourage this, but we would not want people to feel intimidated. If it becomes clear that someone does not want to hear that message they should move away.”

Of course, if the bus is full, it makes it difficult for someone to move away. So even though it might seem to be a petty complaint to us, the United Kingdom is a foreign country with its own laws and customs, and we should be respectful of those customs as the Twelfth Article of Faith counsels. Furthermore, since much of Britain is more crowded than America, the British have been willing to give up more personal rights and accept additional regulation we find intrusive in order to better sustain the social order.

Continuing to proselyte aboard local buses could generate hostility and backlash against Latter-day Saints where none otherwise exists. This would drive people away from the Church. Consequently, I don't think it's asking too much for missionaries to comply with Stagecoach's request, so long as they're applying it equally to missionaries of other religions. The United Kingdom has been one of the staunchest allies the U.S. has had amongst the nations for the past 150 years, and we continue to value that friendship. At the same time, if someone asks the missionaries a question while aboard a bus, they should be permitted to answer.

Two points of view including that of Rick Seymour, are represented in the comments section of the Guardian:

corporates Friday, September 9, 2011 at 03:58 PM:
Whilst i appreciate what Mr Seymour says, he must realise that we live in a country that allows freedom to preach and speak. This includes Jehovahs witnesses, Catholics, Protestants, Mehtodists and everyone else, surely Mr Seymour does not want freedom of speech taken away? If so then how would he be able to comment here?hmm And as for writing to the Mormon church in Chorley i should say it would be better to write to the Mormon Church ( Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints) in his own area, Lancaster, just next to Asda on ovangle road. Mr Seymour, you could have just kindly said that you were not prepared to listen and would you mind if you just had peace and quiet, i am sure the person would have done.

RickSeymour Friday, September 9, 2011 at 04:30 PM:
Thank you for your comments. I totally agree that freedom of speech is one we ALL must hold dear, and I respect your belief (but not agreeing with) that you think it is acceptable that one individual can tell another that they will be condemned for not believing. There is, however, no "freedom to preach [to an individual]", nor as Stagecoach states "freedom to promote" a product or service on their bus service. If a Mormon pays Stagecoach for travel then they agree to abide by their "Conditions of Carriage", i.e. "sit down and shut up" It would be better to write to the Mormon HQ (in Chorley) as the commenter clearly states, this is what "the church" encourages them to do, and so is not confined solely to Lancaster.

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