British Street Preacher Fined for ‘Threatening’ Bible Quotes
In an unforeseen move, gay rights activists and religious leaders are supporting the British street preacher’s rights, even though they don’t agree with his agenda.
Mike Overd is a former paratrooper & British street preacher was taken to trial in June 2014 for using threatening and offensive language while preaching homosexuality.
Questions swirled about. What would this mean for our freedom of speech? March 23, the ruling came through: Guilty. Perhaps one of the most surprising things is that a number of groups have rallied behind him despite their different views.
The Case against Overd
Overd’s speeches consistently offended a number of people. In 2012, he was tried for the same charges, but was acquitted. After many complaints, a police officer was seen telling Overd that he would arrest him “if I hear one homophobic would of your mouth here today,” and told the man he couldn’t make offensive comments. During the heresy trial, many witnesses came forward to speak against Overd. They felt “belittled,” and one woman was particularly offended by his “defamatory comments” on Mohammed. One witness added that they were “all for free speech, but not at the expense of [belittling] someone.”
Benjamin Jones wrote on the subject for the National Secular Society, questioning how this ruling would affect Britain’s freedom of speech. He felt it was outrageous that one could press charges for being offended, saying that “free speech must be free in the sense of meaning uninhibited, restricted only by prohibition on the incitement of violence or defamation. Free doesn’t imply that speech doesn’t have a cost for society, the price is paid” in what people may say and who may be upset.
Guilty: Defenders Come to the Rescue
In an occurrence that may surprise many, gay rights activists and religious leaders have risen to defend Mr. Overd’s rights, though they find what he has to say appalling. The National Secular Society, for example, is firm in their fight against religious privilege. However, Overd’s case of free speech has brought them running to defend our rights from “sloppy legislation”. The Public Order Act under which Overd was found guilty was established in 1986, and has been amended in the past. Many seek to amend it further. Peter Tatchell has offered to speak out on his behalf if he chooses to appeal. Peter Tatchell is one of the most well-known gay rights activists in Britain. However he felt that, though Overd’s views “are bigoted and I’d protest against him,” he doesn’t “think he should have been prosecuted for merely expressing an offensive viewpoint. Being spared offense is not a human right.”