James McConnell, a 78-year-old Belfast pastor, has been found not guilty of broadcasting “grossly offensive” speech about Islam.
McConnell, who made his remarks at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast in 2014, was charged with improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network.
Both are prohibited under the British 2003 Communications Act.
The verdict follows a trial after one of McConnell’s sermons was broadcast online. In it McConnell said: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.” McConnell compared Muslims to the IRA, saying there were cells of Islamic radicals spread across the United Kingdom. He also said: “Now people say there are good Muslims in Britain – that may be so – but I don’t trust them.”
During his trial McConnell said he still believed everything he said in his sermon. “I was attacking the theology of Islam. I was not attacking any individual Muslim,” he told the court. “I didn’t realize that good Muslim people would be hurt. I didn’t go into the church to provoke anyone. I went into church to present the truth.”
Here is an excerpt from the 2014 sermon: