'Pastor of Hate' James McConnell to be prosecuted for anti-Islam rant
An evangelical preacher who described Islam as "satanic" and "heathen" is to be prosecuted.
Pastor James McConnell triggered controversy when he said he did not trust Muslims during a firebrand sermon at his north Belfast church last year.
In a statement, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said the firebrand preacher had refused to accept a lesser punishment which meant the case would not have gone to court.
A spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that following consideration of a complaint in relation to an internet broadcast of a sermon in May 2014, a decision was taken to offer an individual an informed warning for an offence contrary to the Communications Act 2003.
"That offence was one of sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive. The offer of an informed warning was refused by the defendant and accordingly the matter is now proceeding by way of a summary prosecution in the Magistrates Court."
Pastor McConnell initially defended his remarks made during a sermon at his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle last May but, following a huge public outcry he apologised for any offence or distress caused.
The police were called in to investigate the 78-year-old fundamentalist cleric for a potential hate crime.
In the wake of the controversy, Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson also had to issue a public apology for comments he made in defence of the pastor.
Mr Robinson was heavily criticised after he said he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance but would trust them to "go down to the shops" for him.
Days after, Mr Robinson said sorry outside Belfast's Islamic Centre where he met they city's Muslim leaders.