A court in the United Kingdom has overturned the conviction of an American Christian street preacher for using "threatening and discriminatory language" while preaching to Muslims in Lincoln.
The Crown Court on Thursday overturned the conviction of the 33-year-old evangelist, Daniel Courney, whom Lincoln Magistrates had declared guilty on Sept. 14 after the Crown Prosecution Service pressed charges over complaints by Muslims on Lincoln High Street, according to Christian Concern.
While the preacher was giving a sermon, a crowd disrupted by shouting when he was saying that Jesus is the only way to God. But later a Muslim woman claimed that Courney called her "ISIS (Islamic State)" and told her to "go back to your country," an allegation that the preacher denied.
He was arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
"I came to the United Kingdom with its rich Christian history, to bring back the message of Jesus Christ," Courney was quoted as saying earlier. "The message is a simple one: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and do not follow false religions."
But due to the case, he has had to travel to and from the U.K. four times in the last three months, he added. "I have had other restrictions on my liberty during that time. I have been held in police custody and accused of being a hate preacher. At all times I simply wanted to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Courney thanked the Christian Legal Centre for their help and support and their free legal counsel.
"We are proud to represent street preachers in our country as they share the love of Jesus Christ with people on the street," Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, was quoted as saying. "This case once again highlights the need for police operating in these situations to understand how the law protects free speech."
In a separate case in March, the Bristol Magistrates' Court in the U.K. convicted two Christian street preachers, Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell, of public order offenses for saying Muslims are going to Hell and Jesus is the only way to God.
They were found guilty of using "threatening or abusive words or behavior or disorderly behavior within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, thereby, and the offense was religiously aggravated."
The preachers insisted that they were speaking truth from the Bible, but prosecutor Ian Jackson argued that they cannot proclaim that what they believe is true. "To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth," Jackson reportedly said in court.
Stockwell had quoted Jesus from the Bible saying, "I am the way, the truth and the life," and also said: "If you are trying to come through Catholicism, through Jehovah Witness, through Mormonism, the Bible says you're a thief and a liar and a thief comes to steal and destroy. But Christ came that we may have life."