A minister in Northern Ireland who has been taken to court for references he made to Islam in a sermon has said he will stand firm for the gospel.
Speaking outside a Belfast court last Thursday, Pastor James McConnell argued that his case has an important bearing on freedom of speech.
He is being prosecuted under the 2003 Communications Act for his statements in a sermon which was made available online.
McConnell’s lawyers requested that the proceedings be thrown out of court because of a possible abuse of process.
Inside the court, his legal team also told the judge that they had been inundated with potential witnesses who would testify on McConnell’s behalf.
In a sermon last year, McConnell said: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell”.
Last week the 78-year-old again defended his actions and said that the case was important for all ministers.
He said: “I will stand firm for the gospel. I will not relent one inch.”
He said the case is important not only for him but for “freedom of speech and freedom of worship” and “for every minister of the gospel of every denomination”.
A large crowd gathered outside the court to support Pastor McConnell.
Last month, the minister had his first court hearing and, speaking beforehand, he said that he would go to jail for the sake of the gospel.
Atheist journalist Suzanne Breen argued that the prosecution is wrong and said: “Freedom of speech isn’t only for polite persons of mild disposition airing their views within Government-policed parameters”.
The case has been adjourned until 1 October.