Two Christian street preachers who were fined thousands of dollars for saying "Allah is the greatest deceiver" and referring to homosexuality as "immoral" have won appeals against their convictions.
Former US marine Michael Stockwell, 51, told the Bristol Post: "I feel elated that it is over. My heart is still for the Bristol people, and that they will be able to hear the gospel being preached on the streets unhindered."
Added Michael Overd, 53, "This is not an isolated case. How many times must we go to court before there is respect for the law? My heart bleeds for this country. But I am a patriot and I will be back on the streets to preach. My life is not my own. I am a Christian soldier and I rejoice in this prosecution."
According to the BBC, Overd and Stockwell were found guilty of religiously-aggravated public order offenses in Bristol four months ago. In February, the men were each given a £300 fine, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and shared prosecution costs of £3,372 - totalling £2,016 each ($2,624.81 USD).
However, earlier this week, judges at Bristol Crown Court said Stockwell, from Selden in New York, "did no more than express his no doubt sincerely held religious beliefs" and Somerset had not committed a public order defense. Both men, the judge and two magistrates said, did not blatantly show hostility to members of another religious group
The men, who identify themselves as "heralds of God", had been filmed in July 2016 while preaching at Broadmead shopping center, where they preached to shoppers about Islam, Buddhism, Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as sex before marriage and homosexuality.
Stockwell said: "Allah is the greatest deceiver - that's in the Koran," and said, "You will die for your sins and be cast into hell." In turn, Overd told the crowd: "Mohammed is a liar and a thief, just like you and me. Buddha isn't on the cross - he is a liar, just like you and me."
He also said sex before marriage and homosexuality are "immoral", according to the MailOnline, angering customers. The crowd then chanted "go home" at the men before police came and arrested them.
Both men claimed they were simply reading from the King James Bible - and denied aiming hostility at other faiths or sexualities.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, which has been supporting the men, said yesterday's ruling was a "victory for freedom of speech".
"The Bible and its teachings are the foundation of our society and provided many of the freedoms and protections that we still enjoy today," she said. "At a time where Christians are becoming increasingly fearful about expressing their beliefs in the public space, this is a welcome and needed result."