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'Orwellian': Street preacher appeals conviction for 'misgendering' man who identifies as a woman

Woman shouts: Man wearing a dress is 'just as much a woman as me!'

Dave McConnell, a lettings agent from Wakefield, was reported to Prevent after being arrested and convicted for offending a member of the public. Video footage shows a police officer with pentagram tattoos tell Dave he had committed a 'homophobic hate crime' for refusing to say that a man was a woman. He was arrested in front of a jeering crowd. McConnell will be appealing his conviction in Leeds on March 9-10, 2023.
Dave McConnell, a lettings agent from Wakefield, was reported to Prevent after being arrested and convicted for offending a member of the public. Video footage shows a police officer with pentagram tattoos tell Dave he had committed a "homophobic hate crime" for refusing to say that a man was a woman. He was arrested in front of a jeering crowd. McConnell will be appealing his conviction in Leeds on March 9-10, 2023. | YouTube/Christian Concern

A British Christian street preacher who was prosecuted and reported to counter-terrorism for alleged “misgendering” by refusing to say a man is a woman is appealing his conviction. He has been sharing the Bible’s message that we have all sinned by disobeying God’s laws for 15 years.

The appeal of Dave McConnell, 42, from Wakefield, who was convicted in August 2022, is scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday at Leeds Crown Court, the group Christian Concern, whose arm Christian Legal Centre is supporting his case, said.

McConnell was arrested under section 4A Public Order Act 1986 and convicted for “offending” a member of the public in Leeds City Centre on June 8, 2021, according to the group, which said he was reported to the government’s counter-terrorism watchdog, Prevent, by the Probation Service, and ordered to pay a fine of $734 (£620) and do 80 hours of community service.

While preaching in Briggate, Leeds, a pedestrianized area of the city, McConnell was asked by a man who self-identified as a “trans woman” whether God accepted the LGBT community. The preacher said, “No, God hates sin. So, this gentleman asked a question ...” Members of the crowd interrupted him, shouting, “She’s a woman!” McConnell replied, “No, this is a man,” prompting a female member of the crowd to shout back, “She’s just as much a woman as me!”

Despite the interruption, McConnell continued to calmly preach about what the Bible says regarding sexual sin and homosexuality, referring to the individual as “this gentleman” and a “man in women’s clothes.”

He was reported to Prevent despite there being no legal obligation to use anyone’s preferred pronouns in the U.K., Christian Concern added, expressing concern over a growing trend of professionals and members of the public losing their jobs or being prosecuted by the police for alleged “misgendering.”

McConnell preaches that the Gospel is good news and that by believing in Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness of all our sins, and can have an assurance of eternity in Heaven, the group said, adding that he believes the foundational Christian belief from Genesis 1:27 that we are born male and female.

Ahead of the hearing, McConnell said: “What has happened to me has been Orwellian and really alarming. When I was told I had been reported to counter-terrorism I just thought: ‘What has happened to this country? How I have been treated has been totally unreasonable and should concern anyone who cares about Christian freedoms and free speech in this country.”

He added, “I believe what the Bible says about how we are born male and female. I am not aware of any law that says I must use someone’s preferred identity that is clearly contrary to their biological reality. I would also challenge anyone who is preaching to a large and mostly hostile crowd while being assaulted and abused, to get everything politically correct while confronted by someone who is gender distressed.”

McConnell’s appeal is backed by expert evidence from Sex Matters campaigner Maya Forstater, and Toby Young, General Secretary for the Free Speech Union.

Lawyers will seek to overturn his conviction by arguing that the police response was unlawful, disproportionate and interfered with his Article 9 and 10 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In June 2021, a Liverpool County Court awarded $4,500 plus legal costs to McConnell, who was earlier arrested by West Yorkshire Police in December 2019 for “a hate-related public order offense” and “for preaching on gay rights and abortion.” He was preaching the Gospel when some passersby began to heckle him, asking him questions about sexuality and abortion while he had not mentioned either subject. 

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