LONDON — Prosecutors have decided to drop a criminal charge against a Nigerian pastor and missionary who was to have been put on trial for violating the UK Public Order Act in upsetting hearers by preaching against Islam.
“I was interviewed, charged and [set to be] put on trial for being a hate preacher. I have never been such a person. I have only preached about the love of Jesus,” Oluwole Ilesanmi, 62, said in a statement on Monday. “But the most loving thing that a preacher can do is tell people the truth—not just about the gospel, but also about false religions, such as Islam.”
Ilesanmi, pastor of Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, had been preaching on the streets on London in June when he stated during his sermon that there was a correlation between terrorism and Islam. Two non-Muslim political activists became upset by his words and accused Ilesanmi of being Islamophobic and preaching falsehoods. Ilesanmi responded that the Bible is truth and that men must give their lives to Christ.
He was soon arrested and charged with violating Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which criminalizes those who cause public “alarm or distress” by the use of “threatening or abusive words or … disorderly behavior.”
Ilesanmi retained legal assistance from the Christian Legal Center, and solicitor Michael Phillips argued on his behalf that the law grants men freedom to preach Christianity, and that this liberty has been upheld by the courts.
Crown Prosecution Services has now decided not to pursue the matter further.
“I am in the United Kingdom to bring back the true message of the gospel that Christians many years ago brought to Nigeria,” Ilesanmi said in a statement, explaining why he was preaching in London. “I have seen first hand what sadly many Christians have suffered in Nigeria first-hand. It is ironic that I was accused of exactly what the Muslims are doing in my country and so many other countries around the world.”
“When will the UK wake up and realize that submission to Islam is not the answer, that only the Lord Jesus Christ is the answer to the UK’s problems?” he asked.
Arrests of street preachers have been an increasing occurrence in the UK in recent years. As previously reported, two street preachers who had been found guilty in February of “intentionally alarming” the public with their open-air preaching were eventually cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell had been charged in July 2016 of violating the Crime and Disorder Act because “people were getting angry” at their words in declaring the exclusivity of the gospel and the falsehood of other religions.
During the trial, prosecutor Ian Jackson argued before the court that preaching that Jesus is the only way to God “cannot be a truth” and that some passages of the Bible are not acceptable for modern times.
“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,” he declared, according to a press release issued by the Christian Legal Centre.
Upon appeal, Judge Martin Picton, who was joined by two other appeals court judges, subsequently ruled that the prosecution could not sufficiently prove that the men were motivated by animus toward any people group.
“We conclude Mr. Stockwell did no more than express his no doubt sincerely held religious beliefs as he was entitled to do,” he said, according to the Bristol Post.