The Bristol Magistrates' Court in the U.K. has convicted two Christian street preachers of public order offenses for saying Muslims are going to Hell and Jesus is the only way to God. The prosecutor in the case argued that Jesus being the only way to God "cannot be true."
Christian Concern reports that Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell were found guilty during the four-day trial 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."
A third man with the preachers saw the case against him dismissed.
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.
The street evangelists were accused of offending a crowd in Bristol in July 2016 by saying things such as "Allah does not exist" and "all Muslims will burn in Hell," a witness claimed.
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."
Reports say that the crowd gathered around the preachers grew agitated over their remarks. Police who arrived at the scene also accused Overd of having "gone over the top" and of having "wound up people."
The preachers were held for several hours at a police custody center, after which they were released and charged under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Public Order Act 1986.
Michael Phillips, who represented the street preachers, called the prosecution a "modern-day heresy trial — dressed up under the public order act."
Overd, was also charged in 2014 for "causing offense" when he publicly denounced the Islamic prophet Muhammad for marrying a 9-year-old girl, said that the preachers should not be barred from criticizing Islam and other lifestyles.
"Where is our freedom? If you don't like what I said, just move on and let others heard the message, but they want to end the free speech," Overd said.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Center, slammed the court's decision for suggesting that quoting the Bible is a form of hate 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. So it is extraordinary that the prosecution, speaking on behalf of the state, could say that the Bible contains abusive words which, when spoken in public, constitute a criminal offense," Williams said.
"Today's ruling, in effect, states that the Bible is offensive and contains illegal speech which should not be shared in public. This is a very serious state of affairs and the men will be considering next steps to challenge this decision," she added.