UK: Irish Pastor Faces Prison for “Grossly Offending” Islam

No, this isn’t Pakistan, or some other Muslim country. It is Northern Ireland. Think this can’t happen here? Last week’s Supreme Court ruling sets the table. Keep your eye on this one. Here we go:

An evangelical Christian pastor in Northern Ireland is being prosecuted for making “grossly offensive” remarks about Islam.

Pastor James McConnell of Belfast: “I have no regrets about what I said. I do not hate Muslims, but I denounce Islam as a doctrine and I make no apologies for that. I will be pleading ‘not guilty’ when I stand in the dock in August.”

James McConnell, 78, is facing up to six months in prison for delivering a sermon in which he described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic.” The message was streamed live on the Internet, and a Muslim group called the police to complain.

According to Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS), McConnell violated the 2003 Communications Act by “sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive.”

Observers say that McConnell’s prosecution is one of a growing number of examples in which British authorities — who routinely ignore incendiary speech by Muslim extremists — are using hate speech laws to silence Christians.

McConnell, who turned down an offer to avoid a trial, says the issue of Christians being singled out for persecution in Britain must be confronted, and that he intends to turn his case into a milestone trial “in defense of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

McConnell’s comments about Islam comprised less than ten minutes of a 35-minute sermon that focused on Christian theology.

The blowback was as swift as it was predictable. The Belfast Islamic Center, which claims to represent all of the 4,000 Muslims thought to be living in Northern Ireland, complained to police, who dutifully launched an investigation into whether there was a “hate crime motive” behind McConnell’s remarks.

McConnell later issued a public apology, but he refused to recant. He also rejected a so-called informed warning. Such warnings are not convictions, but they are recorded on a person’s criminal record for 12 months. Anyone who refuses to accept the warning can be prosecuted, and McConnell now faces six months in prison. The first hearing of his case is set for August 6.

More over at Gatestone Institute with the Pastor’s remarks.

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