05 January 2016

Pastor who said Islam was 'doctrine spawned in hell' is cleared by court

A born-again Christian pastor who denounced Islam as “heathen”, “satanic” and a “doctrine spawned in hell” has been cleared after a three-day trial in a verdict that upheld the right to offend under the principle of freedom of expression.

James McConnell, 78, was prosecuted under the Communications Act after making his remarks when preaching in his church, Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast, in May 2014. His comments were posted on the internet, causing a public outcry.

McConnell was accused of the improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network. He denied both charges, and later said he was prepared to go to prison if convicted.

But Liam McNally, the judge hearing the case, said it was “not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances”. He added: “The courts need to be very careful not to criticise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive ... Accordingly, I find Pastor McConnell not guilty of both charges.” [The Guardian] Read more