The pastor who will stand trial after calling Islam "Satanic" and "heathen" says he will embrace his court hearing for charges of sharing a "grossly offensive" message through public communication.
"I am not running away, definitely not. I am going to take my stand for the Lord," Pastor James McConnell tells BBC.
McConnell will stand trial Dec. 14-16 for comments he made at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast.
Despite his bold Christian stances, even atheists defend McConnell over freedom of speech. Irish journalist and editor Suzanne Breen has come to McConnell's defense in multiple articles, arguing he represents freedom of speech on trial.
"As an atheist, I carry no candle for Christian fundamentalists, but there is something seriously wrong in hauling a pensioner pastor in ill-health through the courts for simply expressing his opinion," Breen writes. "Let's get this straight. James McConnell didn't incite hatred or encourage violence against any Muslim. Had he done so, I'd be first in the queue to denounce him. He simply expressed his views about another religion. Freedom of speech should mean that he has every right to lambast Islam, as Islamic clerics have to lambast him and Christianity if they so choose."
McConnell tells reporters he believes he is not on trial for the "Muslim issue."
Rather, "The issue is the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, the freedom of worship and the freedom of preaching the gospel and saying what is in your heart."
The pastor issued an appeal on his blog to both Muslims and Christians as he prepares to face the courts.
"I also appeal and challenge every Muslim who lives in this country," McConnell writes. "No one is questioning your right to worship here and practice your religion. If I was living in many Muslim countries in the world, I would be forbidden to practice my religion and would probably be imprisoned or even put to death for doing so. Yet you, as a Muslim, have perfect liberty here. So I appeal to you, come with me and protest.
"Once again I appeal to every child of God and every minister of God. If I am put in prison then, in a sense, you are also put in prison with me; for every sermon you preach and record will be examined and scrutinized!"
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