Irish Pastor James McConnell to be Prosecuted Under UK Hate Speech Laws

“Anti-Islam” Sermon Lands Cleric in Star Chamber

June 29, 2015 – San Francisco, CA – – On May 18, 2014 Pastor James McConnell delivered what has come to be seen in some quarters as a controversial 30 minute sermon devoted to the proposition that, “There is but one God.” His homily referenced 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him.”

The event took place in Ireland at the “Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Belfast” church, from which McConnell retired, at the age of 78, last year.

The majority of the sermon was devoted to an explication of traditional Protestant theology, the centerpiece of which resounded with the theme, “for there is one God,” but early into the delivery the pastor entered a space where few public figures go, defining Islam as a heathen cult.

McConnell intoned before a church filled to overflowing, that [paraphrasing], the God we worship tonight is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…the Father, he is not Allah.

He then delivered the lightning strike, “The Moslem god is a heathen deity…Islam is heathen, Islam is Satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.”

The use of such speech, classified in Europe as criminally hateful, can land one in jail, subject to large fines, or both and McConnell was quickly informed that he would stand trial, probably this August.

The code in questions is Section 127 of the UK’s Communication Act of 2003:

Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he-

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he-

(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b) causes such a message to be sent; or

(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both. [source, Legislation UK]

As is self-evident, the language is expansive to the point of absurdity, allowing one to be charged with a criminal offense merely for causing someone “annoyance” or “anxiety” over something which is said.

As McConnell awaits his court appointment and noting that he is aged and infirm he has been asked about how a conviction might affect his health. In reply he said:

"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." [source, Soeren Kern, UK: Belfast Pastor Faces Prison for "Grossly Offending" Islam, Gatestone Institute]

Make no mistake about it, this is the direction which the United States is rapidly heading, despite, as opposed to Britain, having a written constitution including First Amendment “protection” of free political speech.

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