TAUNTON, UK — A street preacher in the UK who was charged with making “homophobic” remarks has been declared guilty of breaking English law and must pay a fine for his speech, including to a man to whom he quoted Scripture from the book of Leviticus.
As previously reported, Mike Overd, a street preacher for five years, was accused of speaking against homosexuality and Islam last June and July on two separate occasions. He was leveled with two charges of using threatening and abusive words and a charge of causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under the Public Order Act.
A police officer had appeared on local television last fall to urge residents to record Overd’s speech as it had been reported that he was causing offense.
“I’d advise people that if they’re offended to record any incident on their mobile phone and send it to us,” Sgt. Neil Kimmins told reporters.
During his trial last week, Overd presented two videos as evidence to what occurred as he was preaching from the Bible on the street. In one of the clips, a woman with a little boy approaches Overd and says that she wants to ask him a question. The woman then opines that God loves homosexuals.
“Just because I don’t like their sins does not mean I don’t like them,” Overd says as he continues preaching.
In another video, a police officer approaches the street preacher and tells him that he has received complaints for making “homophobic” statements.
“If I hear one homophobic word out of your mouth here today, I will arrest you,” the officer threatens, advising Overd that he has freedom of speech, but may not offend others.
On Monday, Judge Shamim Qureshi, a Muslim who also serves as the presiding judge at the Sharia law-based Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, declared Overd guilty of violating the Public Order Act for his remarks about homosexuality.
“The judge at Bristol Crown Court told him that he should not have used the particular verse in the Bible—Leviticus 20:13—because it uses the word ‘abomination,'” reports the UK-based publication Christian Today. “The judge suggested that there were other verses he could have chosen if he wanted to talk about what the Bible says about homosexuality.”
“All people exercise their right of speech and religion and this country’s laws protect their rights to do so. On the other hand, Mr Overd asks me to interpret the law to endorse his desire to shout, bully, and berate members of the public until they convert to his branch of Christianity,” Qureshi said. “Ironically, those who complained about him at court were Christians.”
“I cannot interpret the law in the way Mr. Overd and his legal team ask,” he continued. “Such a decision would not be the upholding of equal human rights and would be seized upon by fundamentalists and extremists to be the first step to public disorder.”
Overd was fined 1,400 British pounds, the equivalent of approximately $2,090 dollars, part of which was to go to a homosexual man to whom he had quoted the Scripture. The street preacher initially resisted the fine, but was then threatened with jail time if he did not comply.
“Your judgement is flawed and way out of line,” Overd told Qureshi. “You will answer to the same God as me.”
Libby Towell of the Christian Legal Centre, which provided representation for Overd said that she found the ruling to be “shocking.”
“It’s [come down to] now going through the Bible, saying that some parts shouldn’t be spoken about and might cause emotional harm,” she noted. “There’s been a concerted campaign to stop him speaking the word of God on the streets of Taunton. Today was the result that the police had been looking for.”
While Overd was convicted in regard to his speech on homosexuality, he was acquitted for speaking against Islam on the streets.