A judge worth his salt in the UK absolves a Christian preacher over a ‘gayyagni’ row: in Malta, the state still persecutes those who do not abide to the LGBTIQ+ ideology.

The Daily Telegraph reports that a judge of the Appeal Court in the UK absolved a Christian preacher after being convicted by a Magistrate Court for calling a transgender woman, a man and quoting the Bible on matters of homosexuality. In Malta, we have a similar case. Fr David Muscat has also been taken to court for using the term gayyaġni and also making religious statements regarding this matter. Unlike in the UK, the Maltese Magistrate Court absolved him. However, the Office of the Attorney General appealed the sentence. In the course of the appeal procedure, the Attorney General made sure to have the presiding judge changed over a legal technicality. Let us hope that the Maltese Appeal Court will show the same acumen and wisdom expressed by this English judge and uphold and defend the sacred principle of free speech. It is clear that there are lawyers in Malta, working at the Attorney General Office, who still treat those who do not embrace the LGBTQI+ ideology, as terrorists. Let us hope that these individuals are not behaving in this way because they are aspiring for some form of reward either in Malta or in the EU for being a 21st-century Torquemada.

An evangelical Christian preacher who was found guilty of harassing a transgender woman by repeatedly referring to her as a “man” and a “gentleman” as he addressed the public has had his conviction quashed.

Farrah Munir, 19, told a Leeds Crown Court on Thursday how she was left “emotionally distraught” by David McConnell as he preached on Briggate, in the centre of Leeds, on June 8, 2021.

Mr McConnell, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was convicted of causing harassment, alarm or distress to Ms Munir at Leeds Magistrates’ Court last year and sentenced to a 12-month community order with 80 hours unpaid work.

On Thursday, Recorder Anthony Hawks, sitting with two magistrates, allowed the preacher’s appeal against conviction.

Mr Hawks said although they accepted Mr McConnell’s words had been insulting and that Ms Munir had suffered “harassment, alarm and distress”, there was no evidence the appellant had intended to harass her.

Court shown video footage

Earlier, the court was shown video footage from Mr McConnell’s body-worn camera of Ms Munir approaching him as he spoke to a small crowd and asking him: “Does God accept the LBGT community?”

As the 42-year-old preacher responds to the crowd, he repeatedly refers to her, saying “this is a man” and “this gentleman”.

He also says she is a “man dressed in woman’s clothes”.

The court heard that Mr McConnell referred to Ms Munir as a man four times and a gentleman five times.

In the video, Mr McConnell can also be heard to say: “Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God” and “the Bible says that lesbianism is an unnatural and vile passion”.

Asked how she felt about this, Ms Munir told the appeal hearing: “Upset. Emotionally distraught, as this had never happened to me before.”

In the witness box, Mr McConnell said: “In my view, I wasn’t misgendering and I was gendering correctly.”

He told the court: “I think people could have been offended but that’s not the intention. My intention was to simply stay faithful to my beliefs, stay faithful to God and to stay faithful to my conscience.”

He said: “I wasn’t being transphobic; I was expressing what I believe.”

Shown the video footage again, Mr McConnell said: “I knew the person in front of me was a biological male and, therefore, I stayed true to God and true to my beliefs.”

Mr McConnell told the judge that he had been street preaching about once a week for around 15 years.

‘Cannot be sure as a bench that appellant intended to cause harassment’

Recorder Hawks said: “We cannot be sure as a bench that, looking at all the evidence, that the appellant, at that relevant time, intended to cause harassment, alarm or distress.”

The judge added: “We live in a time when free speech is important and vital.

“And we live in a time when people’s attitude towards gender are very different from how they were years ago.

“All these issues need to be properly respected, so I make no criticism whatsoever of the Crown bringing a prosecution in this case.”

Recorder Hawks said: “We are not here to opine on transgender issues.

“We are not here to opine on whether or not the appellant’s views on the Bible are correct or misplaced.”

‘I’m not having this hearing turned into a three-ring-circus’

The judge addressed accusations that the arrest of Mr McConnell had been unlawful.

Earlier in the appeal hearing, the judge interrupted defence barrister Michael Phillips when he tried to ask Ms Munir whether she thought sex and gender were the same thing.

He told Mr Phillips: “I’m not having this hearing turned into a three-ring-circus exploring transgender issues.

“That’s not what this case is about.

“This witness is a transgender woman. She identifies herself as such.

“She says she was insulted by being called a man.

“That’s the evidence. What we make of it, and what we make of the defendant’s intentions, is another matter.”

‘Delighted and relieved’

Following the hearing, Mr McConnell said he was “delighted and relieved”, and added: “I am, however, appalled at how I have been treated by the authorities in this matter.

“No other street preacher, professional or member of the public must go through what I have.

Misgendering is not a crime and should never be treated as such.”

He added: “How I was treated was totally unreasonable and should concern anyone who cares about Christian freedoms and free speech in this country.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre – who backed Mr McConnell’s case, said: “Dave McConnell has been vindicated and we are pleased that the judge has seen sense. No-one should go through what he has for stating biological fact.

“This case has represented a disturbing trend in our society which is seeing members of the public and professionals being prosecuted and reported as potential terrorists for refusing to celebrate and approve LGBTQ ideology.”

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