Michael Overd, the Christian street preacher who was found guilty of public order offenses for saying "Jesus is the only way to God," said in an appeals court Wednesday that he's not a hate preacher, and he loves Muslims and gay people.
The Bristol Post reported that Overd, along with another Christian preacher, Michael Stockwell, were convicted earlier this year of religiously aggravated public disorder after they read from the King James Bible before a crowd of 100 people last year, stating that Muslims are going to Hell.
After witnesses accused the preachers' messages of being "anti-Muslim" and "anti-gay," Overt told the Bristol Crown Court that he has "never hated anyone."
"If we truly love the Muslims we must bring the truth," he said. "Jesus said any prophet who comes in any other way is a liar and a thief. The Bible and Quran are fundamentally different," Overd declared.
He insisted that he has Muslim friends who he "loves to bits," and that he loves gay people, though he disagrees with them and believes they are "lost."
"They are not worse than anyone else," the preacher insisted.
Prosecutor Ian Jackson said back in February that the preachers 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 said at the time.
Though some witnesses said that the crowd gathered around the preachers grew agitated, and accused Overd of having "gone over the top" and having "wound up people," the preacher insisted that many were listening calmly to what they had to say.
"Some of the crowd were very supportive. I'd say five or six thanked us that day. One Christian man was very upset about the abuse that was coming toward us. I didn't use any abusive words. I was not being disorderly. I was absolutely not intending to abuse anybody," Overd argued in court.
He also said that God is the ultimate judge.
Overd and Stockwell were held for several hours last year in police custody following the incident, after which they were charged under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Public Order Act 1986.
They were each fined over $2,500 USD following the ruling in February.
Back in 2014 Overd was again charged with "causing offense" when he publicly denounced the Islamic prophet Muhammad for marrying a 9-year-old girl.
The preachers are represented by the Christian Legal Center in the U.K., with chief executive Andrea Williams arguing that the case concerns the state of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the country.
The preachers' solicitor, Michael Phillips, has said that the case is "nothing more than a modern-day heresy trial."
"Every negative remark about other religions and ways of life are taken straight from those texts. The preachers do not use inflammatory language, but simply the language of the Bible," Phillips said, according to Premier.
"If it is the case that the crown seeks to ban biblical scripture, that would be a bold move."