Verdict on 'Pastor of Hate' McConnell due to be delivered

Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell

A verdict is due to be delivered in the case against a born-again Christian preacher accused of making grossly offensive remarks about Islam.

Pastor James McConnell from Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, has been prosecuted under the 2003 Communications Act after he said Islam was "heathen", "satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in hell".

The 78-year-old faced two charges - improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network - after the comments made from the pulpit of his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle on May 18 2014 were streamed online.

He denied both alleged offences.

District Judge Liam McNally heard the high profile trial over three days at Belfast Magistrates' Court last month but reserved his judgment.

During the case, the judge was shown a dvd recording of the entire religious service during which the controversial sermon was made, including gospel singing, scripture reading and prayer.

In it McConnell also said he did not trust Muslims.

Prosecutors said the pastor was not on trial for his beliefs but alleged the "straightforward" case centred on his carefully chosen words which they claimed were "grossly offensive".

Giving evidence in his defence, McConnell said he had not intended to provoke, hurt or offend Muslims but was unrepentant for preaching the gospel.

He also revealed that he had turned down a lesser punishment of an informed warning because he did not want to be "gagged".

Several hundred evangelical Christian supporters attended each day of the hearing to show solidarity with McConnell.

Several high profile politicians, including Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds and former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, have also pledged support for the pastor.