A British judge convicted a street preacher on March 23 for using ‘threatening language’ that condemned homosexuals.
The judge ordered Mike Overd to pay a £200 fine, equivalent to $300, in addition to £1,200, or $1780, in costs and compensation to a man who claimed Overd caused emotional distress while reading a verse from the Bible's Book of Leviticus.
In June 2014, police arrested Overd, a former paratrooper, after he publicly spoke against homosexuality using the Bible verse Leviticus 20:13.
Bristol Crown Court Judge Shamin Qureshi sentenced Overd under section 5 of the Public Order Act, which states that an individual cannot use free speech to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
The Leviticus verse refers to homosexuality as an "abomination."
Quershi said he thinks Overd could have used other Bible passages that mention homosexuality while he was preaching on Taunton’s streets.
Libby Towell, a spokeswoman for the Christian Legal Centre, which represented Overd, said she thinks this decision allows judges to selectively choose certain types of religious speech.
"The judge is effectively censoring the Bible and saying that certain verses aren't fit for public consumption," Towell said.
Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society president, said he thinks this decision sets a dangerous precedent that limits free speech.
Overd faced similar charges in past years.
In 2014, a woman raised a complaint against a comment Overd made against Muslims. While talking to religious leaders, Overd said he could not compare the Prophet Muhammed with Jesus. While the woman thought his comments were discriminatory, the judge acquitted him of the charge.
"There's been a concerted campaign to stop him speaking the word of God on the streets of Taunton," Towell said. "Today was the result that the police had been looking for."
After hearing the verdict, Overd said he does not plan to stop his preaching or tone down his rhetoric.
“I’m going to go straight back now and preach,” Overd said.
Photo Credit: Screen Capture via The Independent