Christian street preacher Michael Overd was convicted on Monday by a United Kingdom court of a public order offense in relation to a sermon he preached about homosexuality. The judge even lectured him about the Bible verses he cited to defend his stance.
According to a news release issued by the Christian Legal Centre, Overd regularly preached on the streets of Taunton, which is located in Somerset. District Judge Shamim Ahmed Qureshi also told Overd that he should have used a verse out of Leviticus 18 to make his point instead of citing a verse from Leviticus 20.
"I am amazed that the Judge sees it as his role to dictate which parts of the Bible can and can't be preached," Overd said. "I did not quote the full text of Leviticus 20 or make reference to the death penalty, but the Judge is telling me that I should use other parts of the Bible."
Overd added that the judge's comments were tantamount to "censorship."
"I am being punished for words that never passed my lips," Overd said.
The Christian Legal Centre, which supported Overd in his legal case, noted that the judge imposed a £200 fine (about $300) and ordered the street preacher to pay £1,200 (about $1,800) in costs and compensation to a gay man with whom he had a public conversation.
"I have been ordered to pay compensation for causing 'emotional pain' to someone who approached me aggressively demanding to debate the issue," Overd said. "There was no harm, injury or theft, just a simple disagreement over theology which I have now been fined for."
Despite the judgment made against him, Overd remained unshaken with his Christian faith.
"My motivation for preaching the gospel is my love for Jesus Christ and my deep concern for people who do not know His great love and are heading towards an eternity separated from God," Overd said.
According to BBC News, the 50-year-old preacher made the sermon about homosexuality over loudspeakers last summer. In addition, he faced two similar charges about disrupting public order, but he was cleared of them.
"In my view, he enjoys coaxing people into asking him questions so that he can reply loudly into the microphone to answer them," Qureshi said. "The only semblance of civilized conversation is when they commend him. If they disagree, he shouts them down."
The judge contended that Overd did not "display any scholarly approach to the topics," arguing that the preacher only highlighted "the negative points in any other religion." However, Overd told BBC News that he won't tone down his sermons despite the ruling.
"I follow my Lord and leader, so I won't tone down," Overd said.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, supported Overd's messages, given that the preacher followed "the message of the Bible" by being "motivated by love, not hate."
"There will always be those who disagree with the Bible's teaching," Williams said. "But we should defend to the hilt the freedom to proclaim it in a loving way, which is what Mike Overd always seeks to do."