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Preacher cleared

March 2012

Preacher cleared

Christians could face increasing legal challenges over their faith, despite a court ruling that cleared a Christian street preacher of delivering a homophobic sermon.
    In February, Mike Overd was cleared by Taunton Magistrates’ Court of hate crime charges brought against him by two gays, who claimed he targeted them with homophobic abuse.
    In court, Mr Overd described how he was arrested under the Public Order Act 1986 for preaching which stated, ‘even these dear men caught in homosexuality, if they ask God for forgiveness of sin, can be forgiven their sin; God loves them that much’.
    The couple complained to police, who arrested and charged the preacher of a ‘hate crime’ for stating his traditional biblical views on the practice of homosexuality. The judge found Mr Overd, who was backed by the Christian Legal Centre, had not intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
    However, such cases are likely to continue, especially as the UK government hurtles towards reclassifying civil partnerships as marriage.
    For example, at the same time, a legal appeal court case found against Christian guesthouse owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull.
    Last year, a court found them guilty of discrimination after refusing a double room to a same-sex couple. They then appealed their £3,600 fine on the grounds they had always restricted double rooms to married couples, but, in February this year, the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision.
    Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said, ‘This was the wrong decision. A number of judgements have now elevated sexual orientation rights above historic freedom of belief. This was never the intention of Parliament and has no democratic mandate.
    ‘We’re heading towards a two-tier society where only those who subscribe to this new state morality will be able to operate in the public sphere’.

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