Street preachers to appeal 'modern day heresy trial' convictions
Two street preachers are appealing in court today against public order convictions after a case in which a prosecutor claimed publicly quoting parts of the King James Bible was a criminal offence.
Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell were found guilty under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 at Bristol Magistrates' Court.
Represented by the Christian Legal Centre, the pair will appeal the conviction at Bristol Crown Court.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, says that the case raises huge questions about the state of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the UK.
She said people will be shocked that a court now considers the Bible itself to be a form of hate speech.
The preachers' solicitor, Michael Phillips told the court that "this prosecution is nothing more than a modern-day heresy trial - dressed up under the Public Order Act."
Describing the preachers' message, he said: "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.
"If it is the case that the crown seeks to ban biblical scripture, that would be a bold move."