People must be free to ‘express themselves robustly’, says UUP

Evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell (right) leaving Belfast Magistrates' Court after being found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described Islam as "heathen" and "satanic"

Evangelical preacher Pastor James McConnell (right) leaving Belfast Magistrates' Court after being found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described Islam as "heathen" and "satanic"

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Part of the price we all pay for living in a democracy is that “we will hear things that we may judge offensive and that is the case in this instance, as the judge has made clear in his ruling”, a UUP spokesman has said in the wake of the Pastor McConnell verdict.

This morning evangelical Protestant preacher Pastor James McConnell was found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”.

The born-again Christian walked free from Belfast Magistrates’ Court where he had faced a prosecution under the 2003 Communications Act.

Delivering his verdict, District Judge Liam McNally said: “The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances.

“Accordingly I find Pastor McConnell not guilty of both charges.”

The UUP spokesman added: “People must be free to express themselves robustly, particularly in matters of faith, but we would urge the avoidance of unnecessary offence.

“Northern Ireland needs to be able to respect diversity whilst allowing those who hold deep religious convictions to express them within the law.”