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Christian street preacher on trial for 'hate speech'

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Issued by the Christian Legal Centre

 

News Release
For immediate release
11 March 2015
 

Christian street preacher on trial for 'hate speech'


A CHRISTIAN evangelist is to appear at Taunton Magistrates Court today (11 MAR), accused by witnesses of using threatening and abusive speech during his street preaching last year.

Michael Overd faces trial for three offences under the Public Order Act. The CPS is bringing the case against Mr Overd, stating it to be “in the public interest”.

However, a number of the witnesses interviewed said they cannot remember what was said or when it was said.

Mr Overd describes the evidence to be heard as “completely unreliable”.

The charges relate to sermons he preached in Taunton in June and July last year.

One of the eyewitnesses, Nigel Marley, said in a statement that he was “unable to recall exactly what phrases he was using, but it was clear to me that it was homophobic.”

“What did I say? Surely he has to be more specific?” said Mr Overd in response. “If I was being homophobic as he claims I was, again I ask how can he not recall what I was saying? He gives no specifics about what I said yet is very strong and forthright in his judgments.”

Another witness, Darren Chalmers, who describes himself as an “openly gay Christian”, claims that Mr Overd’s preaching made him feel “on edge” and “angry”.

In response to his claims, Mr Overd responded: “From what he has stated I do not understand how I have committed a Section 5 offence? It is simply one person disagreeing with another about Christian belief.

“Since when have the Police been arbitrators on such matters? Since when have the Police been deciders of theology?”

Police recently asked members of the public in a Somerset newspaper to record Mr Overd in an attempt to get evidence of “offensive remarks”.

Mr Overd has preached in towns and cities across the UK but has preached predominantly in Taunton for the last five and a half years.

The former paratrooper says in his statement: “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.

“People need to know the bad news, that they are sinners and separated from a holy God because of their sin before they can understand the need for the good news, that God has made a way for us to be in right relationship with Him through the sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Mr Overd is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC).

CLC chief executive, Andrea Minichiello Williams, commented:

“Mike is clear that he is motivated by love, not hate. Indeed, this is in line with the message of the Bible.

“It’s clear from the evidence that he has consistently dealt with people’s objections in a balanced and reasonable way. He has explained his beliefs. He hasn’t been aggressive or targeted anybody in particular. The evidence bears all this out.

“Rather, what’s happening is that Mr Overd is being accused of saying things and acting in ways which are demonstrably false, because certain individuals do not like what he is saying.

“There will always be people who disagree with the Bible’s teaching. But to try and get a man prosecuted simply for preaching the gospel is pernicious.

“The CPS should be ashamed of taking on this case and wasting tax payers’ money in the process. The case should be thrown out for lack of evidence and credibility and a full apology issued to Mr Overd.”

 

Ends.

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