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(above) Michael Overd
A Christian street preacher convicted and fined by a U.K. judge, who also serves with an Islamic Shariah court, is guilty of having breached the public order by his choice of Bible verses.
Michael Overd, a former British paratrooper who has been street preaching for five years, was convicted this week of delivering “homophobic sermons” over a loudspeaker in Taunton, Somerset, last summer.
Overd faced two charges relating to claims by homosexuals he had offended them and another of causing “racially-aggravated” harassment targeted at Muslims, the BBC reported. He was found guilty of only one of the “homophobic” charges.
Overd, 50, was fined $300 and ordered to pay compensation and costs totaling $1,800 at Bristol Crown Court.
“I have been ordered to pay compensation for causing ‘emotional pain’ to someone who approached me aggressively demanding to debate the issue,” said Overd. “There was no harm, injury or theft, just a simple disagreement over theology which I have now been fined for.”
District Judge Shamim Ahmed Qureshi told Overd he should not have referenced Leviticus chapter 20 in explaining the biblical view on homosexuality, but “clearly indicated that he could have used chapter 18 of the book,” reported Christian Concern.
Qureshi, who according to a 2009 article in “The Brief,” chronicling the rise of Shariah law in Britain, serves with the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, the overseer of the nation’s Shariah courts.
Qureshi found no problem with Overd’s use of Leviticus 18:22 which describes homosexual activity as an “abomination,” but a reference to Leviticus 20:13 was impermissable because it prescribed the death penalty.
Overd agreed he used Leviticus 20 in his comments but never referenced the death penalty.
“I am being punished for words that never passed my lips,” he said.
Overd, who initally told the judge he would not pay the fine but relented when threatened with 45 days in jail, took particular issue with Qureshi dictating which passages from the Bible were lawful for him to use.
“I am amazed that the judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and can’t be preached,” he said.
“I did not quote the full text of Leviticus 20 or make reference to the death penalty, but the judge is telling me that I should use other parts of the Bible. This is not free speech but censorship. The judge is redacting the Bible.
During sentencing, Qureshi criticized Overd’s speaking style and his training as a preacher.
“In my view he enjoys coaxing people into asking him questions so that he can reply loudly into the microphone to answer them. The only semblance of civilized conversation is when they commend him, if they disagree he shouts them down.”
Accusing Overd of “double standards,” Qureshi said the street preacher believed he was right and everyone else was wrong.
Qureshi continued: Overd “does not display any scholarly approach to the topics but merely preaches whatever little he had learned, regardless of being rude or bullying to others. He happily shouts out the negative points in any other religion.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center – Overd’s attorney – disagrees.
“Mike is clear that he is motivated by love, not hate. Indeed, this is in line with the message of the Bible,” she said indefense of her client.
“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.
“Mike’s boldness and his witness to Jesus is remarkably similar to that of the apostles in the early years of the church.
“They were also hauled before the courts to defend themselves for preaching a message of love and truth. They also faced trumped up accusations in an attempt to portray them as ‘disruptive.’
“Now, as then, the disruptive ones appear to be the people who bring accusations, on the flimsiest of evidence, against a man who loves Jesus and loves people. This is why Mike gets up and preaches in Taunton town center.
“There will always be those who disagree with the Bible’s teaching. But we should defend to the hilt the freedom to proclaim it in a loving way, which is what Mike Overd always seeks to do.”
As for Overd, he said he has no intention of allowing the court to dictate his street preaching.
“I follow my Lord and leader, so I won’t tone down,” said
SOURCE: WND News
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