James McConnell, 78, appeared at Laganside Magistrates Court in Belfast on August 6, after local Muslims complained that he delivered a sermon in which he described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic.”
According to Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS), McConnell — whose sermon was streamed live on the Internet — 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.”
Pastor 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.
In what was described as an “extraordinary morning,” more than 1,000 people appeared outside the courthouse singing hymns and waving placards — declaring “Christianity under persecution” and “Evil Sharia law is not welcome in our country” — in a mass show of solidarity for McConnell, who was cheered and applauded as he entered and exited the courthouse. …
McConnell, who turned down an offer to avoid a trial, said the issue of Christians being singled out for persecution in Britain today 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.” …
The controversy began on the evening of Sunday, May 18, 2014, when McConnell, the founding pastor of the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, an evangelical mega-church in northern Belfast, preached a sermon on a foundational verse of the Christian Bible, 1 Timothy 2:5, which states: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Preaching with an oratorical flourish common to traditional Protestantism, McConnell said(sermon begins at 22m40s) that it is impossible that the God of the Hebrew and Christian Bible is the Allah of the Koran.