Monday, September 26, 2011

Street preacher on trial in England for insulting gay couple

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Michael Overd
Michael Overd

While insulting a passing gay couple and threatening them with hellfire officially makes one a bigoted zealot, it should not make one a criminal. Unfortunately, England begs to differ:

A Christian street preacher has appeared in court charged with verbally abusing a gay couple.

Michael Overd, 47, from Creech St Michael in Somerset, allegedly told the men that they were “evil” and would “burn in hell”.

He appeared at Taunton Deane magistrates’ court and denies two charges under the public order act of intentionally causing “alarm or distress”.

The couple, Craig Manning and Craig Nicholl, said they were walking through Taunton’s town centre when Mr Overd began shouting at them.

Dean Lampard, prosecuting, said Mr Overd had repeated the phrases and “upset” the couple.

Mr Overd will go on trial in February.

Any society that claims to be free must inherently espouse free speech as a core principle. While some reasonable exceptions to freedom of speech are necessary (such as death threats, harmful defamation, incitement to violence, etc.) in order to maintain security, I doubt it could be reasonably argued that merely hurtling religious invective at others poses a credible risk to their immediate well-being. In all fairness, Manning and Nicholl should simply have either insulted Overd back or (preferably) simply ignored him, rather than go running to the authorities like upset children in a schoolyard.

One must always remember that the notion that no-one is immune from offense goes both ways. Unless Overd made any credible threats to their persons, then the gay couple is simply out of line in trying to have him prosecuted for his disgusting, yet entirely harmless, rhetoric.

(via Joe. My. God.)