THE Belfast Evangelical pastor who described Islam as “heathen and satanic” in a sermon last year remains defiant after a three-day court case brought under the 2003 Communications Act.
James McConnell, aged 78, who retired as leader of one of the largest Evangelical congregations in Northern Ireland, Whitewell Tabernacle, faced two charges arising from a sermon he preached in May 2014.
On Wednesday, Pastor McConnell took to the witness stand and said: “I had never any intention whatsoever of hurting any one of them [Muslims], and I can say that before the judge and before the almighty God.
“It never entered my head that someone would take me up on that. I was preaching this in the confines of my own church. There are Muslims there who know me and understand me. It never entered my head.”
He explained that he had preferred to face the trial instead of a formal caution, stating: “If I took that, it would be an insult to the one that I love, for I was standing up for him, for his gospel, and for his truth. If I took that informed warning, that would be me gagged. I will take my stand, no matter what happens here today.”
The District Judge Liam McNally said that the trial was an “interesting” one, and, addressing a crowded sitting at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, said: “Obviously, I am going to reserve my judgment. I want to consider all the points raised in submissions.”
He went on: “I should concentrate my mind by giving myself a deadline. I want to wish you all a happy and holy Christmas.”
Speaking outside court, Pastor McConnell expressed his satisfaction at the manner in which the trial had been conducted.
“It has been fair. The prosecution has been fair; everybody has been fair. I can’t wait now for 5 January,” he told hymn-singing supporters afterwards.
Supporters sang hymns and clapped as the Pastor emerged from court.