BELFAST, Northern Ireland – A 75-year-old Irish preacher was subjected to a police probe after he condemned Islam in a sermon and was accused of ‘hate mongering.’
James McConnell, pastor of the Whitewell Metropolitan Church in North Belfast, Ireland, discussed the religion of Islam during an evening sermon on Sunday, May 18th. During the sermon, McConnell denounced Islam and said the contrast between it and Christianity is stark.
“The God we worship and serve this evening is not Allah,” he proclaimed, according to a video of his sermon. “The Muslim god—Allah—is a heathen deity. Allah is a cruel deity. Allah is a demon deity.”
McConnell then criticized the “foolish” British government for attempting to appease Muslims financially, saying Islam is “a doctrine spawned in hell.” He also noted that Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith by the “fanatical worshipers” of Allah.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, McConnell’s remarks were inspired by the current plight of Meriam Ibrahim—a professing Orthodox Christian woman in Sudan. As previously reported, Ibrahim was sentenced to hang after she was convicted of apostasy for refusing to deny her faith and convert to Islam.
Following McConnell’s May 18th sermon, the Police Service of Northern Ireland investigated the preacher for allegations of hate crime. Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the preacher’s comments as “hate mongering” and said the anti-Muslim statements “must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
“Coming in the wake of recent spate of disgraceful racist attacks against families in parts of Belfast and elsewhere, such inflammatory comments only serve to fuel hatred,” McGuinness added, according to the Daily Mirror. “[It is] essential that there is a full and thorough investigation of these comments and their potential to generate further racist attacks.”
After McConnell’s sermon was publicized, numerous people denounced his message through social media and online comment threads. Furthemore, the Whitewell Metropolitan Church’s website was attacked by hackers and—as of late this week—was unavailable.
“There are currently attempts to hack and compromise our church website,” the church’s Facebook page explains. “The website is temporarily unavailable. Please be patient as we investigate further.”
In the midst of the attacks from non-Christians, many others have rallied to support McConell. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he has personally visited Whitewell Metropolitan Church several times and was thoroughly impressed by McConnell’s preaching.
“There isn’t an ounce of hatred in his bones,” Robinson stated in a newspaper interview. “This is someone who preaches the gospel.”
Later, Robinson clarified his comment in a statement:
“I strongly believe that Pastor James McConnell has the right to freedom of speech,” he explained. “I will defend his right just as I defend the right of others to express views with which I disagree. People have the right to express their differing views and indeed the essence of democracy is the ability to do so in a way that is free from fear and intimidation.”
Others have supported McConnell through social media.
“What Pastor McConnell said is simply the correct Christian standpoint, accurately reflecting the Biblical evaluation of good and evil,” one commenter noted.
“Sometimes the cold truth is what is needed,” another wrote. “If it does not exalt the name of Jesus then it is spawned in hell. Continue to stand for the gospel and shame on any man of God who turns on another for speaking truth.”