Evangelical Preacher On Trial After Calling Islam 'Satanic'

| by Michael Allen
Judge's GavelJudge's Gavel

James McConnell, a 78-year-old evangelical preacher, is on trial in Belfast, Ireland, for allegedly spreading a "grossly offensive" message over the Internet.

McConnell said: "Islam is heathen. Islam is satanic," during his message at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, Ireland, in May 2014, the Associated Press reports.

McConnell's sermon was streamed online, which prosecutors say violated the 2003 Communications Act.

Prosecutor David Russell told the court on Dec. 14 that McConnell 's case had "nothing to do with religion or freedom of expression," and that McConnell "characterizes the followers of an entire religion in a stereotypical way," according to the AP.

"And that's grossly offensive and that's not protected from saying it from a pulpit," Russell added.

McConnell has denied the criminal charges and insists that he did not intend to offend, insult, cause fear or stir people up.

A DVD of the entire sermon was played in court.

"I know it is a church sermon," District Judge Liam McNally said while questioning the necessity of playing the entire DVD, according to the Daily Mail. "Do I have to listen to three sets of singing?"

"I am as keen as the next man on an uplifting tune, but the rest of this is three songs and then the pastor asks everyone to go upstairs to get a cup of tea," McNally added.

Sources: Associated Press, Daily Mail / Photo Credit: Chris Potter/Flickr, WikiCommons via Times of San Diego