British Pastor James McConnell to Go on 3-Day Trial for Calling Islam “Satanic” and “Heathen”

Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell

A date has been set for the trial of an evangelical preacher accused of making grossly offensive remarks about Islam.

Pastor James McConnell faces charges relating to a sermon he gave in a Belfast church last year in which he called the religion “satanic” and heathen”.

He will stand trial for three days starting on 14 December.

One of the witnesses called to give evidence could be the BBC Northern Ireland presenter Stephen Nolan.

Pastor McConnell, of Shore Road in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, is charged with 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.

His remarks about Islam were made at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast in May 2014 and were streamed online.

Hundreds of people arrived at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning to support the 78-year-old.

The BBC has questioned what relevance Mr Nolan has to the case, but the court is considering issuing a witness summons before the trial begins.

A judge gave the defence team seven days to produce a written application outlining what evidence they believe Mr Nolan could provide.

A defence solicitor said they were also considering lodging an abuse of process application.

Criticising the Public Prosecution Service, he said his first “substantive” communication with prosecutors in a month was 45 minutes before Thursday’s hearing was due to begin.

“The prosecution have adopted the tactic of the silo. We have been kept in the dark,” he said.

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