A street preacher, handed a public order conviction by a district judge who told him he had been using the ‘wrong’ Bible verse in public, has won his appeal.
Sitting at Taunton Crown Court, Circuit Judge David Ticehurst upheld preacher Michael Overd’s appeal, after the Crown failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the conviction.
Mr Overd, supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), had been convicted of a public order offence in March 2015, following a conversation with a man self-identifying as homosexual who objected to Mr Overd’s preaching.
Passing judgment in March, District Judge Shamim Ahmed Qureshi took the extraordinary step of ruling on which Bible verses it was appropriate for Mr Overd to use in his public explanation of the Bible’s teaching on homosexual practice. However, Judge Qureshi’s conviction was overturned.
Speaking after the successful appeal, Mr Overd said the case should never have come to trial in the first place. He said: ‘I have known God’s peace and presence throughout this difficult time. The court was faced with the farcical situation of a witness telling the judge he couldn’t even remember what I had said, but simply asserting that it was “homophobic”.
‘Totalitarian regimes develop when ordinary people feel that there are certain things that can’t be said. My motivation in all my preaching is to share God’s message of love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. To do that, I have to talk about the reality of life, including our sinfulness’.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the CLC, said Mr Overd’s case ought to be a warning to the government over its extremism plans.