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Mar 23

Street preacher convicted – and now acquitted!

Michael Overd with his wife Rachel outside Taunton Magistrates Court in 2012.

Street preacher convicted.  Michael Overd with his wife Rachel outside Taunton Magistrates Court when he was acquitted in 2012.

STOP PRESS:

Michael Overd’s appeal was heard at Taunton Crown Court, Shire Hall, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4EU on Friday 11th December 2015 at which he was acquitted when the prosecution’s case collapsed.

All you need to know is in our YouTube video ‘Street Preaching is Legal‘ !

Original report from 23rd March 2015:

A street preacher has been convicted over ‘homophobic’ sermons, the BBC reports.

Michael Overd was preaching in Taunton, Somerset, in June and July 2014.

He was cleared of a second similar charge and another of causing “racially-aggravated” harassment aimed at Muslims. During the case, Mr Overd told the judge he must be born again.

The charges were brought under the Public Order Act.

We were pleased to support Michael Overd when he faced similar charges and was acquitted at Taunton Magistrates Court in 2012.

Mr Overd, 50, was fined £200 and ordered to pay compensation of £250 and costs of £950 totalling £1,400 at Bristol Crown Court.

Sentencing, judge Shamim Qureshi told Mr Overd he “knew full well the power of words to hurt”.  We understand the Muslim judge came down from Birmingham to sit in the case, and it was when he referred to Christianity and Islam as joint Abrahamic faiths that Michael Overd urged him to repent and be born again.

He was told to pay £250 to his ‘victim’, Darren Chalmers.  Mr Overd said the judgement was “flawed” and told the judge he would have to “answer to the same God”.

After the failed case in 2012, the police began looking for complaints against the long-standing Taunton preacher again last year, appealing in a local newspaper for the public to record him making “offensive remarks”.  A number of witnesses said they could not remember what Mr Overd said, just that it was ‘offensive’.

Support for the principle of street preaching came from the Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Rev Donald Allister, who said we should have freedom to express our views, provided it were done in a Christian manner.

A campaign by the Christian Institute to remove the word ‘insulting’ from the Public Order Act was meant to stop preachers being prosecuted, but the police have just switched to charging them with ‘threatening and abusive’ behaviour instead.

ShamimQureshi

Judge Qureshi

Intriguingly, the judge had reserved judgement, which indicates he wanted to take advice from those higher up.

Judge Qureshi told the preacher he seemed to enjoy testing the laws on free speech to their limits.  He said: “In my view he enjoys coaxing people into asking him questions so that he can reply loudly into the microphone to answer them.

Mr Overd had “double standards”, the judge said, ‘believing he was right and everyone else was wrong’, according to the BBC, although that does not seem to indicate ‘double standards’, merely settled views.  The complainant, Darren Chalmers, appears to have contrary views to Mr Overd which are just as settled.

“He happily shouts out the negative points in any other religion,” said the judge, without acknowledging that the negative points in Islam are not very hard to find.

Asked after the case whether he would tone down his sermons, Mr Overd said: “I follow my Lord and leader, so I won’t tone down.”

Mr Overd had faced two charges of using threatening and abusive words, and a third of causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.  Only one charge succeeded.

We understand Michael Overd is being advised to appeal to the Crown Court.

PRAY: Thank God for Michael Overd and pray the Lord will bless him and grant District Judge Qureshi in the case repentance and faith in Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

 

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  1. Rox

    “…. who said we should have freedom to express our views, provided it were done in a Christian manner.”

    So what about the poor old Muslims, and others ? Do they have freedom to express their views provided it is done in a Muslim manner, or do they have to do it in a Christian manner ?

    The good bishop has probably got the right idea, but I think he needs to think about rephrasing this, or he won’t get anywhere with it. Maybe “in a civilised and legal manner” ?

  2. Bob Hutton

    It is quite obvious that prosecutors chose a Muslim as a judge in order to get a better chance of a conviction.

    I’ve done a blog article on this:

    http://www.bobhutton1.blogspot.com

  3. amyraut

    Yes I lament the erosion of our freedom of speach and the increasing marginalisation of Christianity but there is a an elephant in the room. Namely the assumption that the theology/philosophy driving both the what (street preaching) and the how (method, style and content) are correct. A strong and biblical case can be made against both. That discussion needs to happen before someone else needlessly makes themself a victim of such discrimination AND adds to the already high level of intolerance we are experiencing. The more this sort of thing continues to happen the harder I fear we’re making it for ourselves.

    1. Stephen

      Can it really? Why don’t you share that anti-preaching Biblical case with us?

      1. Rox

        A certain group of American preachers (whom I have seen on two occasions, a year apart) use the argument, very loudly and frequently : “You, sir, have you ever told a lie ? In your whole life, have you ever told a lie ? Then you are a SINNER sir, and you are going to HELL”. They use a very loud speaker system , which they insist is “only for the use of Christians”, so the victims have virtually no right of reply.

        They also say “Your neighbours don’t love Jesus, the people in your street don’t love Jesus”, I pointed out that there is a vicar living in my street, and also a convent in my street (this is true !). Scornful reply: “They don’t love Jesus”.

        Is this method, style, and content “correct” and “biblical” ? Another vicar in the crowd, who had himself been consigned to hell by the Americans, didn’t think so.

        Nor did a young man who asked why he was an epileptic. They said it was because he had sinned. He told them that he was born an epileptic. They said that this was because Adam and Eve had sinned. Did Jesus treat epileptics like that ?

  4. amyraut

    I’m not sure it would be worth it. I have arrived at this view after much study and thought. I don’t expect to persuade anybody with a few quick comments on a blog post – especially somebody who’s mind is already made up – as yours appears to be.

    1. Tom

      My mind is not made up. And I feel drawn to this sort of witness.
      If you have a Biblical case suggesting it is not a good thing to do, please share it.

      1. Stephen

        I’m with you, Tom.
        It’s a bit of cop-out to say ‘I don’t think you’ll agree with me, so I won’t even bother’.

  5. amyraut

    I am prepared to find time to do that Tom. However,

    Stephen, you prove my point. First you misrepresent me then you accuse me. Not very christian like nor conducive to honest discussion

    1. Stephen

      Do you have a Biblical case against street preaching or not?

  6. amyraut

    Are you prepared to have an honest, christian-like discussion or not?

    Or is your mind already made up?

    1. Stephen

      How can my mind be made up when you have not yet given your evidence? Go for it. Please.

  7. amyraut

    In summary:
    1. I see no direct mandate
    2. There’s not much to go on by way of example either
    3. The case for following the example of the apostle Paul is weak. Not only is it hard to find examples, typically he goes to the synagogue of place of worship, but also he was an apostle we are not.
    4. We are called to make disciples. Typical street preaching method and practice doesn’t work with this in view.
    5. We are called to love even our enemies. No matter what the preacher says of his motives, typically it doesn’t come across as loving.
    6. We must proclaim the unchanging gospel in a way that is intelligible and therefore culturally relevant to the hearers. This means understand the way non-believers interpret what they hear based on their cultural conditioning.
    7. In turn this means understanding the core “defeater beliefs” underpinning how people think. For example, it is highly questionable to proclaim a gospel that assumes the existence of a God that they reject without dealing with the reasons for that rejection.
    8. Allied to this is the complete misunderstanding of Christianity that prevails in our culture. If we don’t position the gospel as something entirely different to both irreligion AND religion they will just assume we are calling them to miserable, legalistic obedience – and also typically reject the message on the basis of the widespread belief that Christians are hypocrites too.
    if we don’t start to think about how to engage in our present culture cases such as this will increase and the animosity we are seeing towards Christians will continue to grow.

    1. Mark Jones

      well, Jesus said “Go into all the world and PREACH the good news to all creation” (Mark 16v15). The only “preaching of the Gospel” I see nowadays occurs within the safe four walls of church buildings, ie to the (hopefully) already converted?

  8. Mark Jones

    yes, a lot of churches will put on “outreach” services, where they invite some celebrity Christian speaker, and we are expected to invite our friends to come and hopefully be converted (this assumes, of course, that ordinary Christians cannot be trusted to explain the Gospel to their friends for themselves, they have to be exposed to a “professional”). Such services are not, to my mind, “GOING and preaching the Gospel”, they are “STAYING and preaching the Gospel”, ie inviting people to come to us.
    In my experience, people simply do not want to come to our boring meetings, they have no problem with Jesus or even Christianity, but “church” is a big turn-off for them, sitting in a pew, or row of chairs watching a performance for an hour (or longer!). We go to our church buildings and do “church” ie listen, mostly passively, to sermons, watch and sometimes join in with the “worship team” etc. A lot of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of Constantine, imo, who ensured that the church met in specialist buildings, impersonal and passive. The church in the New Testament, as far as I can see, met in people’s homes, where there was true intimacy, community and everyone participated: compare this to today where we meet in large impersonal buildings where the “services” encourage passivity. Most can’t even manage a “hello”.

  9. amyraut

    That is true and not in dispute. What I question is the concept of preaching the gospel to strangers on the street and the content and style of such preaching. Most of it may as well be in an unknown foreign language for such is the lack of understanding of how to preach the gospel in this culture and such is the poor reputation of the church. We have as much credibility with strangers as a convicted con-man trying to sell us a pyramid scheme.

    As for the gospel being preached in church I have to disagree with you there. Most preaching in church is singularly lacking the gospel, for any sermon that holds out something we are to do without also setting out what Christ has already done for us in satisfying the demands of the law and becoming our righteousness and then setting out how any call to obedience is therefore not to earn God’s favour but rather the willing response of a heart captivated by Him is, by default, a call to self-righteousness which is no gospel at all!

    1. Stephen

      Paragraph 1:

      Luke 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
      Luke 9:2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

      Acts 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
      Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

      Paragraph 2:

      Lev 26:2 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
      Lev 26:3 If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
      Lev 26:4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
      Lev 26:5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
      Lev 26:6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.

      Psalm 119:1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
      Psalm 119:2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
      Psalm 119:3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

      Matt 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
      Matt 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

      John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
      John 14:22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
      John 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

  10. Tom

    Perhaps Amyraut’s position can be divided into parts:
    1. Mandate to preach
    2. Nature of preaching
    3. Effectiveness of preaching style

    1. Direct Mandate: Gospel instructions (Mark 16:15) are to the apostles specifically. But Our Lord had already established that quite unconnected persons should not be stopped from public ministry, Mark 9:38, Luke 9:49. So I would not with any confidence try to prevent another from preaching, even if they appear to be nut-cases.

    Then we have to ask, who is an apostle? Am I one? St Paul was, although not one of the Twelve. And travel companions in Acts were preachers. Maybe the entire Body of Christ, His Apostolic Church, is composed of mandated apostles.

    2. What is preaching? I like the story of St Francis, who took a young monk to preach in a town they visited. Having entered at one gate, the pair walked through the town in silence, and left by the opposite gate. “I thought we were going to preach” said the young monk. “I did!” replied the saint.

    This is bearing witness at the highest level. St Francis was, and remains, a great inspiration to Christian life.

    3. Is this the strongest suit in Amyraut’s position: can a street pastor convert souls? It is really hard in this age. Getting into public arguments is not always good witness. It could be counter-productive. But I know of situations where lives have been saved, quite literally, by people who are able to do this. And those who resist the Gospel are often those crying-out for help the most.

  11. Mark Jones

    Guys, you make some good points.

    However, I would say this: we surely agree, don’t we, that millions if not billions of people are going to hell unless they are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ(?). Surely, then, the loving thing to do is to warn them of this. Street preaching, for all its faults, and those of its practitioners, must be one way, if not the best, of “getting the message across” to unbelievers? If we do not warn them, the Bible says that their blood is on our hands. Where else are we going to encounter unbelievers in large numbers? Yes, we could hand out tracts (also largely not being done), but we are called to “PREACH” (notwithstanding what Tom has said about Apostolic authority above), which by definition is “talking loudly to a crowd of unbelievers”(?). And yes, we will encounter opposition. Indeed, it may soon be illegal.

    But its no use waiting for a “church” initiative to do it, I’ve been waiting 30+ years, eager to find someone to do it with (the Biblical authority, as far as i can see, is to beware of doing it alone), let alone be taught how to do it: no-one is interested in the “lost”: the “church” is largely asleep, as in Keith Green’s words.

    Your post above, Tom, is somewhat spoilt for me by your reference to St Francis and his “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words”: I wish I had a quid for every time I’d heard that one. Nor is it true: the villagers in your example remained unaware they had to repent etc, someone has to TELL them, using words!

  12. covermedown

    Amyraut, Jesus called His disciples in Matt (they weren’t yet appointed as apostles) to go and preach to the lost sheep of Israel. He also gave them instructions on how to respond to people who don’t receive the gospel, and put judgment on them too (that was Jesus’ job, not ours; we can only repeat that that is their lot if they don’t repent, just like Michael Overd did). That seems like a direct mandate to me.

    Coupling this with the commandment to go and make disciples, it seems to me that this go ye into the world and preach commandment is well-fulfilled by open-air preaching. The aggression and vitriol we receive from the world is part of the experience we should expect. The good news is that Jesus said that we should be called blessed for it (Matt 5:10-12). Their violent defiance and rejection of the gospel is then the good evidence that we fulfilled God’s will well.

    Second, Paul is actually an excellent example of an early open-air preacher. The fact that he mostly went into synagogues /places of worship does not dictate to us then that we should limit our preaching to places of worship. Jesus didn’t quite make that distinction in Matt 10 either. And Paul absolutely had to know beforehand that he was bringing a message that was guaranteed to offend his audience deeply. The gospel does exactly that; it directly attacks those who think highly of themselves. And he deliberately and repeatedly went out to preach it to those who would hate the message and rise up against him (and Jesus by extension). He knew he was starting a fight wherever he went to preach. Based on your concerns about open-air preaching, Paul would be a very delinquent apostle. I personally beg to differ.

    There is indeed a requirement of the Christian to minister to the broken, the weak, the downtrodden, the lost and those in desperate need; and in those encounters, we must lead with actions of compassion and kindness, like the good Samaritan. They will be more inclined to be opened up by the Holy Spirit to receive the gospel because their pride will be more broken down.

    But for those who are not broken, weak, downtrodden, lost and in desperate need (and those who pridefully deny that they are), they still must have the gospel ministered to them. Open-air preaching is one more option to approach them with.

    The bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with open-air preaching as a method or approach. It is actually a commendable venture, as long as the Christian conducts himself/herself faithfully in a godly manner.

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