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“Preacher Convicted of Quoting Bible, Now High Court Jumps in”
by WND - Bob Unruh   
December 17th, 2015
Michael Overd

Michael Overd

An appeals judge in the United Kingdom has issued a stunning reversal of a lower court judge's blast at the Bible over a street preacher who quoted Leviticus in explaining the Christian perspective on homosexuality.

According to officials with Christian Concern, which fought in court on behalf of street preacher Michael Overd, it was Taunton Crown Court Circuit Judge David Ticehurst who upheld Overd's appeal.

He ruled the government "failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the conviction," the organization reported.

Overd had been convicted by a judge, Shamim Ahmed Qureshi, who also serves with the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, the overseer of the nation's Shariah courts.

Qureshi had taken the "extraordinary step" of determining and announcing in court which Bible verses "it was appropriate for Mr. Overd to use in his public explanation of the Bible's teaching on homosexual practice," the organization reported.

Overd, in a statement released by Christian Concern, said the case never should have come to trial.

"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," he said.

"In this country, we are now in the ludicrous situation where the slightest accusation of a ‘phobia,' be it ‘homophobia' or "Islamophobia,' is enough to paralyze rational action by the police and authorities. The highly politicized dogma of ‘phobias' now too often results in trumped up charges and legal action.

"There is a chilling effect," he said.

Overd was convicted and fined by Qureshi, who told him he should not have referenced Leviticus chapter 20 in explaining the biblical view on homosexuality, but "clearly indicated that he could have used chapter 18 of the book."

Overd had been taking part in street preaching activities in Taunton, Somerset, at the time. Homosexuals filed the complaint, alleging Overd had "offended" them.

Overd, 50, was fined $300 and ordered to pay compensation and costs totaling $1,800.

He explained at the time he was approached by people with questions while he was preaching. Then they filed a complaint over his answr.

"I have been ordered to pay compensation for causing ‘emotional pain' to someone who approached me aggressively demanding to debate the issue," said Overd at the time. "There was no harm, injury or theft, just a simple disagreement over theology which I have now been fined for."

Qureshi, who according to a 2009 article in "The Brief," chronicling the rise of Shariah law in Britain, serves with the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, the overseer of the nation's Shariah courts, said it was impermissible to reference Leviticus 20:13 because it discusses the death penalty.

Overd took issue with Qureshi dictating which passages from the Bible were lawful for him to use.

"I am amazed that the judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and can't be preached," he said then. "I did not quote the full text of Leviticus 20 or make reference to the death penalty, but the judge is telling me that I should use other parts of the Bible. This is not free speech but censorship. The judge is redacting the Bible."

Andrew Williams, chief of the Christian Legal Centre, said, "Public debate is becoming more superficial and fragile. People feel that certain things can't be said. That is dangerous. It prevents us from challenging ideas, beliefs and behavior that need to be challenged. It may make some people feel more comforetable, but it doesn't make the country safer."

Williams continued, "Mike's case highlights problems that will only get worse if the government ploughs on with its flawed ‘Coungter-Extremism Streategy." Islamic terrorism needs to be tackled, but giving the government far-reaching powers to clamp down on all sorts of beliefs that it doesn't like is dangerous."

Added Overd, "Reasonable, law-abiding people now feel that they can't say certain things and that is dangerous. Totalitarian regimes develop when ordinary people feel that there are certain things that can't be said."

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