In 2010, Michael Overd of Great Britain was taking part in a street outreach with friends when two gay men spat at and cursed him for reading verses saying homosexuality is a sin. In 2011, the same two men accosted him while he was preaching alone — threatening him so much that Overd called the police to ask for safety. A week later, the police showed up at his house and arrested him for “insulting” the men — charging him under the British version of hate-crimes laws. Earlier this year, Overd was cleared of the charges. He recently spoke with CitizenLink about the incident, and how rare such victories are for religious freedom in Britain.
CitizenLink: So you’d already had one run-in with these men when you went out last summer. Tell us what happened.
MO: I started to preach and the two gentlemen were walking directly towards me. I noticed them, and they were glaring at me, staring at me.
I was thinking, “Are they coming to talk to me, or are they going to be angry with me?” I was preaching on forgiveness of the Cross — how it does not matter what sin you commit, how heinous it is — if you seek Christ as Lord, if you ask for forgiveness of sin and humble yourself before God and repent of your sin, He will forgive you of any sin. I opened my arms out wide and said, “Even these two dear gentlemen caught in the sin of homosexuality can have forgiveness of sin if they should so ask.”
They were even madder than the first time, if that was possible. Strangely, several other opponents appeared, seemingly out of the woodwork. They surrounded me, shouting, screaming at me, taking it in turns. I was trying again to reason with the two gentlemen and to the several people that surrounded me, to no effect. I went quiet for a little while just to see if they’d blow themselves out. That can sometimes happen, but I’ve learned in situations such as this the best weapon of warfare is to preach the Gospel. So I let it go for perhaps 30 seconds, then started to preach, and they dispersed. They gave me some room, but it was strange — it was like caged animals.
The two men stayed but the rest of the supporters disappeared eventually. I was thinking, “What am I going to do now? I can’t go back to the car — it’s in an isolated car park. They’ll tear me to pieces if I go back.” So I called my wife and let her know what was happening and said the police were going to be coming, hopefully soon, and I start handing out tracts. (Both men) started following me, the guy with the phone staying the closest. I bumped into a couple of friends whilst I was there. When the friends came close, (the men) disappeared and stopped abusing me and threatening me. Then when I was on my own they would come back. They came close, whispering in my ear threats — terrible abuse. They wanted to do a citizen’s arrest on me, but the police I think advised them not to.
CL: A police car came along as this was happening, correct?
MO: Yes, but it was reacting to a more serious event, because (the policeman) said someone else would be along. I was like, “Oh no.” I wanted to get in the car and go down to the police station for safety.
Then the gentleman with the phone came closer and started accusing me of sexually molesting children, calling me a pedophile. I then started to get angry with him and said, “No, you listen to me sir, you carry on as you are and I’ll have the police on you,” and he stopped then. We walked on down the pavement a little bit further and he’s still talking on the phone, and I said, “Listen, can I talk on your phone please?” and he swore at me. “So you want to use a homosexual’s phone, now do you?” and I said, “Come on, let me have the phone for a second or two.” He gave me the phone. I said, “Listen, can you get a police car here as soon as possible? This is really serious and I need a car here right now.” I can’t remember what the lady on the end of the phone said. He then tried to grab the phone off me and I said, “Take it, take it, have it!” but he made out like I was having a fight with him, like I was trying to steal his phone.
I saw a police car not too far away then, so I said, “Look, lad there’s a car over there, let’s go over there, come on.” I ran over to it and he thought I was trying to run away. I got to the police car and pleaded with the guys in it to let me go down to the station and sit in the car for my own safety. I thought for a moment they weren’t going to let me get in, but they did. I explained what happened, and managed to tell them the Gospel on the way down.
CL: So they let you go — and then a week later they showed up at your house and arrested you?
MO: Well, when they knocked on the door that day I thought they were just coming over to chat because I preached that day in the town. I said, “Would you like a cup of tea?” and they said, “No, we’ve come to arrest you.”
I was in the prison cell while they sorted everything out and questioned everything for five to five and a half hours. The charges they brought are orientated around the key word “insulting.” If you insulted the person or they feel insulted.
What they accused me of saying was, “These evil homosexuals deserve to burn in hell.”
(But when the case went to court, the judge) said, “We can’t find conclusive evidence.” I don’t remember hearing much after that because I was praising the Lord, just thanking Him and remember him saying, “Not guilty.”
CL: Do you think this is giving other preachers some courage?
MO: Oh most definitely. I’ve already had some contacts with friends that are very much encouraged by this. We’re under serious spiritual attack in Christianity concerning this agenda. I feel this is a Goliath spirit behind the attack on Christianity. It’s very, very rare that we’ll have a Christian victory such as this in the courts of this so-called Christian land now.
CL: You know a little bit about the liberties we have over here and that they are also under attack. Do you have any words of encouragement for believers on this side of the Pond?
MO: Yes, I’d say stand on the Word. Just keep your eyes on Christ and just love Him and love the people, love your enemies and pray for them much. He’ll give you His strength.