APPALLING, GROSS INJUSTICE METED OUT TO STREET PREACHER
This morning Christian Concern issued the following news update:
In an extraordinary judgment, Taunton street preacher Mike Overd has been convicted of a Public Order offence for using the wrong Bible verse in a public conversation with a man who identifies as homosexual.
However, Mike was acquitted of two other Public Order charges relating to the critique of Muhammed.
District Judge Shamim Ahmed Qureshi said that Mike shouldn’t have referred to Leviticus 20:13 to make his point about homosexual practice but indicated that he could have used Leviticus 18:22.
The Judge said that Leviticus 20:13 was inappropriate because it mentions the death penalty, although Mike didn’t even use this part of the verse. “I am being punished for words that never passed my lips,” he said. (Emphasis added)
“The Judge is effectively censoring the Bible and deciding which parts are acceptable to use in different situations. Today it’s preaching on the streets that’s threatened. Tomorrow it could be the pulpit” Andrea Williams (CEO Christian Concern).
Mike has been ordered to pay compensation for causing “emotional pain” to the man, even though it was the man who approached Mike aggressively.
‘Love for Christ’
Mike commented: “I have been ordered to pay compensation for causing ’emotional pain’ to someone who approached me aggressively demanding to debate the issue. There was no harm, injury or theft, just a simple disagreement over theology which I have now been fined for.
“My motivation for preaching the gospel is my love for Jesus Christ and my deep concern for people who do not know His great love and are heading towards an eternity separated from God.”
A number of the witnesses interviewed in connection with Mike’s case said they couldn’t remember what was said or when it was said. One of them said that he was “unable to recall exactly what phrases he was using, but it was clear to me that it was homophobic.”
Even though the evidence was so flimsy, Mike has to pay a fine of £200 and a total of £1,200 in costs and compensation.
Mike has already faced significant injustice and opposition. In a Somerset newspaper, police accused him of “being hostile” and asked people to record him if they felt he was making “offensive remarks”. Despite this, no substantial evidence has ever been produced.
Legal support: Christian Concern are not charging Mike for legal services, but if you’d like to support them in this and their continued defence of gospel freedoms please donate here.
Cranmer’s in-depth report
‘His Grace’ (Archbishop Cranmer blog) provides a more thorough and ‘disinterested’ analysis, To preach Leviticus 20:13 now constitutes a Public Order Offence. He offers this opinion:
…As the Judge notes, “As far as (Mr Overd) is concerned, he is preaching the Gospel.” He adds later: “He has clearly not studied religion deeply enough to comprehend it fully but has accepted whatever others taught him about his religion.. He is clearly selective in his arguments and is blind to any negative points in his own religion.” And there is much evidence of this in Mr Overd’s sometimes painfully injudicious and inconsistent responses to cross examination by the prosecution.
But biblical ignorance and theological superficiality are not crimes. Nor is proclaiming that ignorance or superficiality in the public square.
Yet Judge Qureshi insists that if Mr Overd wishes to preach against homosexuality, he may use Leviticus 18:22 (which is identical to the first sentence of Leviticus 20:13), but he may not use Leviticus 20:13 even if he omits the second sentence (ie Leviticus 18:22). This is a bizarre ruling (emphasis added). It seems that the omission of the second sentence does not mitigate the allegation of ‘threatening’ language, because, the Judge says, “the words he did use have to be put into context with his behaviour which the prosecution allege is threatening”.…“Informing people of their fate in the Hereafter is not a criminal offence but threatening them in this world is,” he says. The fact that Leviticus 20:13 has additional ‘context’, and that context is threatening “in this world”, appears to transgress the acceptable boundaries of freedom of speech.
Cranmer quotes case law on people being free to express such views as Mike Overd, but which this Judge is challenging:
Mr Overd was not inciting anyone to violence, and yet Judge Qureshi has challenged Lord Justice Sedley’s ruling head-on by effectively finding Mr Overd guilty of using threatening words despite the contextual earthly judgment never having passed his lips.
Read Cranmer’s 2-page exposition and commentators’ discussion here. Also, it will be interesting to read any fuller opinion messrs Frank Cranmer & David Pocklington in Law & Religion UK may offer in due course.