A judge has convicted a Christian street preacher and taken him to task for referring to the wrong passage of the Bible, after he was urged into a conversation about homosexuality in the street.
Michael Overd, who regularly preaches in Taunton, south-west England, said he was preaching the gospel one day in the street when a homosexual came up and requested that he debate what the Bible says on homosexuality.
The judge imposed a fine of £200 on Mr Overd and told him to pay a total of £1200 in costs and compensation. Mr Overd was acquitted of two other public order charges.According to reports, some witnesses told the court that they could not remember what Mr Overd said, but claimed it sounded homophobic.
In his verdict, District Judge, Shamim Ahmed Qureshi, said Mr Overd should not have used Leviticus 20:13 when bringing up a reference to a Bible verse about homosexuality.
The judge said the context of that passage was inappropriate, as the context refers to the death penalty, although Mr Overd said he never referred to such a thing in his discussion.
After the case, Mr Overd said it was shocking that a judge should adopt the role of biblical censor, effectively dictating which parts of the Bible are fit for public preaching.
In a statement issued by the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Overd said, ‘I am amazed that the judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and cannot be preached. 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.
‘I have been ordered to pay compensation for causing “emotional pain” to someone who approached me aggressively demanding to debate the issue. There was no harm, injury or theft, just a simple disagreement over theology, for which I have now been fined’.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said, ‘It is clear from the evidence that he has consistently dealt with people’s objections in a balanced and reasonable way.
‘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 Mr Overd gets up and preaches in Taunton town centre.
‘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 Mr Overd always seeks to do’.