Call for preacher to be banned from Taunton’s town centre

More than 4,300 people have signed a petition calling on Taunton MP to back a plea to local councillors to stop a Christian man preaching in the town centre.

Those objecting to preacher Michael Overd, who also want him banned from Bridgewater, accuse him of making offensive and homophobic remarks to people on the streets.

Mr Overd denies the claims, saying that he instead has become the victim of abuse.

Taunton shop manager, Leon Da Silva, who set up the petition to ban the preacher, says what he says in public is “horrible”.

Mr Da Silva’s petition on states: “Many locals to the Taunton and Bridgwater Area will know of a gentleman who stands on the bottom of Taunton High Street and the Main Street in Bridgwater Preaching.

“This happens most weekends. Michael Overd, who preaches Christianity on a regular basis, is often caught getting into conflict with shoppers and passers-by.

“Whilst many Taunton and Bridgwater residents have no problems with street preaching, this gentleman hurls racial, homophobic, discriminative and offensive comments at the public, saying that ‘all gays will go to hell’ calling women ‘whores’ and targeting disabled children. He had been charged on numerous occasions for racial and homophobic aggravation and got away with just a fine.

“He is often shouting at passers-by and saying that we are all sinners and we will go to hell for not believing in God. He makes racial remarks and homophobic remarks to anyone who walks past.

“I got into a confrontation with him because of my sexuality. He was saying I was a sinner and will go to hell for being gay, and just because I have two kids I am a bad father for bringing them up in that environment.

“I am proposing that we go to the local council and get this man banned from preaching in the town centre as locals want a hassle-free shopping experience. “

Mr Da Silva added: “I wish to state I have no issue with religion or anyone peacefully preaching in public, but this man takes it too far and causes local businesses damage on a weekly basis.”

But Mr Overd, who earlier this year won an appeal against a conviction for a religiously-aggravated public order offence, has hit back defending his right to speak his mind.

“You just can’t ask a preacher to stop preaching because someone is alleged to have made a complaint and is unhappy. It’s a case of whether the law’s been broken or not, not someone’s feelings,” he said.

“I care for people and love those people for them to hear the truth and for them to turn from their sin, turn from their unbelief, turn from what they know goes against the commands of God. So the truth must be preached.

“I met a man recently who was a homosexual Satanist. Hey, I was a hell-bound sinner as well. It makes no difference to me what your sin is in particular. I still shook his hand. I still loved the guy, cared for him.”

Mr Overd said that if he is banned from preaching, he will merely go somewhere else.

He added: “I have never picked a person out just walking by on their own business. I only, sometimes, respond to comments, vile words, accusations from passers-by.

“There are many others of us now facing persecution in our country for being a Christian. There are other Christian preachers. You see, one man with God is in the majority. So I persevere. I plod on.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.