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'Satanic Islam' sermon Belfast cleric McConnell to make first court appearance

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 06/08/2015

Pastor James McConnell senior pastor from Whitewell Tabernacle addressing the thousands of people who attended a rally at the Odyssey.
Pastor James McConnell senior pastor from Whitewell Tabernacle addressing the thousands of people who attended a rally at the Odyssey.
Pastor James McConnell in the church he built at Whitewell Tabernacle
Pastor James McConnell in the church he built at Whitewell Tabernacle

Firebrand preacher Pastor James McConnell is due to make his first court appearance following his controversial "Satanic Islam" sermon.

The evangelical Christian said his prosecution was a "waste" of public money.

Mr McConnell also said he "loved" Muslims, but was prepared to go to jail rather than retract the remarks made during a sermon last year.

The 78-year-old is due to appear before Belfast Magistrates Court today.

He said: "I think it is a waste of money. A waste of thousands."

The fundamentalist preacher, who retired last year, sparked a public outcry when he said Islam was "heathen" and had been "spawned in Hell".

The controversial speech was streamed online in May 2014. Police initially launched a hate crime investigation, but prosecutors have taken a case under the 2003 Communications Act.

He added: "I am not nervous in the least. I am not even afraid if they put me in prison. I will go for the sake of the Gospel."

Mr McConnell has apologised for any distress, but described the legal action as an attack on freedom of expression.

He said: "It is a battle of free speech. If I am put in jail people will immediately respond and say: 'This is not right, this is terrible, this is evil'.

"If I am successful, I will just praise God and get on my way and still preach the Gospel."

Speaking from his home on the shores of Belfast Lough, Mr McConnell, who is paying his own legal fees, rejected allegations he was racist.

"I am no racist, sure I have (former) Muslims in my congregation," he said. "I have all sorts of people in my congregation. I have never been a racist. I have never hated anybody in my life. I wouldn't know how to hate anybody."

He later added: "To every ordinary Muslim out there, I want to say to them that I love them, that I pray for them, and if they are in need or in any bother, I am there for them."

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