Two street preachers have been convicted of public order offenses after a public prosecutor claimed that quoting parts of the King James Bible in the context of modern British society “must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter”.
The prosecutor had argued that free speech must yield to multicultural reality in modern Britain, and that there was a clear threat to violence due to the words of the preachers and the criticism of Islam.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell were convicted Feb. 28 at Bristol Magistrates’ Court. On Friday (Feb. 25), the court dismissed the case against a third man, Adrian Clark, ruling that there was no case to answer.
During the four-day trial, prosecutor Ian Jackson, claimed:
“To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”
The men were found guilty under Section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, for using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, thereby, and the offence was religiously aggravated.”
Michael Phillips, who represented the street preachers, said:
“This prosecution is nothing more than a modern-day heresy trial—dressed up under the public order act.”
Free to Criticize Islam?
Mr. Stockwell had quoted a Bible verse in which Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and that he is the only way to heaven.
Mr. Stockwell said:
“If you are trying to come through Catholicism, through Jehovah Witness, through Mormonism, the Bible says you’re a thief and a liar, and a thief comes to steal and destroy. But Christ came that we may have life.”
He also entered debate with a Muslim gentleman in which both individuals stated opposition to the other’s religious beliefs.
Mr. Stockwell said: “Men should be able to proclaim the truth and have diverse differences in the public forum, agreeing to disagree without harm or repercussions. Truth today is the new hate.”
He continued: “I am an American, and there is no free speech in England. You criticize Islam; and a group of individuals don’t like what you say and threaten violence to silence speech they disapprove of. The police and court shut down the ‘free speech’ to avoid public disorder. It is a green light to the Islamists and any other radical groups to silence speech. The police should be protecting us.”
Mr. Overd said: “You can’t have the threat of violence and public disorder to stop us criticising Islam and other lifestyles. Where is our freedom? If you don’t like what I said, just move on and let others heard the message, but they want to end the free speech.”
The court has awarded legal costs of £2016 against both Mr. Overd and Mr. Stockwell. A Criminal Behavior Order is being pursued against Mr. Overd, with the hearing delayed until May 2017.
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SOURCE: Charisma News, Christian Concern