Quoting King James Bible abusive and criminal’, court hear-s2 hours agoEngland & Wales
Michael Stockwell and Michael Overd outside Bristol Magistrates' Court.
A public prosecutor told a judge that quoting the King James Bible in modern British society must be considered “abusive” and “criminal”, it has emerged.Ian Jackson made the remarks at Bristol Magistrates’ Court during a four-day trial involving two Christian street preachers.
Jackson is also reported to have said believing that Christ is the only way to God “cannot be a truth”.
Two street preachers, Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell, have been embroiled in a legal battle since July last year, when they were arrested and charged with a Public Order Offence after preaching in Bristol city centre.
The two men say they were merely preaching the gospel and answering questions on the difference between Islam and Christianity.
Their lawyer, Michael Phillips, described the prosecution as a “modern-day heresy trial – dressed up under the public order act”.
While in court, the defence argued that Mr Overd and Mr Stockwell have a legal and democratic right to preach and quote from the King James Bible in a public place.
In response, prosecutor Ian Jackson reportedly said: “Whilst it is right that if things are said in the Bible, they can be said to be an expression of religious belief – to use words translated in 1611 in a very different context, in the context of modern British society, must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.”
He is later recorded saying: “To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.”
Free speech concerns
Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern – who are backing the men – says the case raises ‘huge questions’ about the state of free speech in the UK.
“The Bible and its teachings are the foundation of our society and provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today.
“So it is extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible contains abusive words which, when spoken in public, constitute a criminal offence.”
“In today’s democracy, we need the freedom to debate, challenge and disagree”, she added.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell have been ordered to pay £2,016 each, in fines and costs. They will appeal the conviction.