UK, free speech: Street preacher wins appeal against conviction for using the ‘wrong’ Bible verse

Even in the UK, a country increasingly hostile both to free speech and Christianity, it is not for a law court to tell a Christian preacher which Bible verses are, and which aren’t, suitable for being quoted.

A Christian street preacher has today won his appeal against a public order conviction for using the ‘wrong’ Bible verse in public.

Sitting at Taunton Crown Court, Circuit Judge David Ticehurst upheld Michael Overd’s appeal, after the Crown failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the conviction.

Mr Overd had been convicted of a public order offence in March, 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, saying that rather than Leviticus 20:13 he might have quoted Leviticus 18:22.

But in fact it turned out that the preacher had quoted neither of the two verses.

After the judgment Mr Overd commented: “Today the Court was faced with the farcical situation of a witness telling the judge that he couldn’t even remember what I had said, but simply asserting that it was ‘homophobic’ – as though the mere assertion that something is ‘homophobic’ is enough to curtail free speech. In this country, we are now in the ludicrous situation where the slightest accusation of a ‘phobia’, be it ‘homophobia’ or ‘Islamaphobia’, is enough to paralyse rational action by the police and authorities.”