An evangelical Christian street preacher who mistook the gender of a trans woman had his harassment conviction overturned.
David McConnell, 42, had been found guilty of a public order offense after calling 20-year-old Farrah Munir a “gentleman” when she asked him a question while preaching in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
He repeatedly called her a “gentleman” and “man” despite being told she was a woman by members of the crowd, Leeds Crown Court heard.
In overturning the verdict, registrar Anthony Hawks said: “We live in a time where freedom of expression is important and vital and we live in a time where people’s attitudes towards gender are very different than they were a long time ago. years”.
“All of these issues need to be properly respected, so I am not at all critical of the crown bringing the prosecution in this case.”
Street preacher David McConnell, 42, was reported to anti-terrorism police for statements he made referring to a trans person
McConnell, standing on a box and using a microphone and loudspeaker, had been preaching to other Christians at Briggate in Leeds on June 8, 2021, when Miss Munir approached him and asked, “Does God accept God?” the LGBT community?’
The interaction was captured on a body camera by McConnell, and the footage was viewed by the court.
McConnell responded, ‘No, God hates sin. So, this Knight asked a question…’
Members of the crowd yelled at him: ‘She’s a woman.’
Prosecutor Helena Spector said McConnell kept calling her “gentleman” five times and referred to her as “man” four times.
McConnell, from Wakefield, told the crowd: ‘I am fully aware that it is a man’, ‘you can tell by looking at it that it is a man in women’s clothing’ and addressing Miss Munir directly in the street said: ‘ You are not a woman, you are a man.
He also claimed that homosexuality was an ‘abomination in the sight of God’.
McConnell was arrested after a “hostile mob” assembled and was found guilty of harassing Ms Munir at an earlier hearing at Leeds Magistrates Court, when he was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 80 hours’ notice. unpaid work and a £715 fine. He today he won his appeal.
The preacher has been criticized for comments he has made about gay and trans people, including calling homosexuality an “abomination.”
Ms Munir told the appeal hearing that she felt “upset” and “emotionally distraught” by her gender mistake.
Video footage showed Ms Munir telling McConnell: “I’m a woman, honey.”
The crowd then asked McConnell, “What makes you think she’s a man?”
To which he replies ‘I can tell by looking at it, that it’s a man dressed in women’s clothing’.
Some members of the crowd sat up and began chanting “hate speech, hate speech” before the police arrived.
A member of the public then stole McConnell’s loudspeaker and another grabbed a cross carried by one of his fellow Christians.
The arresting officer, PC Gareth Burns, described an “angry mob” of around 100 people had gathered and arrested McConnell as much for his own safety.
Speaking about his appeal from the witness stand, McConnell said he had been street preaching since he was 26 after finding God.
“I think there are only two sexes, male and female, that is God’s teaching,” he said.
I always refer to men as men and women as women, and I remain true to my beliefs.
‘People may be offended, but that was not my intention there. My intention was to remain faithful to the Bible.
‘My intention was not to hurt.
Recorder Hawks, hearing the appeal with two magistrates, asked McConnell, who did not know Ms Munir: ‘What made you believe that the person who spoke to you was a man?’
McConnell replied: ‘The evidence of my eyes.’
Recorder Hawks, quashing the conviction, said: “We are not here to opine on transgender issues or opine on whether or not appellant’s views on the Bible are misplaced.”
He said McConnell’s intention was not to cause Miss Munir harm or distress when he called her a man.
“He was simply repeating what he really believed to be the teaching of the Bible,” the judge said.
Following the ruling, McConnell said: “I am delighted and relieved that the judge has vacated the conviction and that I can clear my name. However, I am appalled at how I have been treated by the authorities in this matter. No other street preacher, professional or member of the public should go through what I have.
“‘Gender confusion’ is not a crime and should never be treated as such. I don’t think I was ‘mistaking’, I thought I was telling the truth.
“The way I was treated was totally unreasonable and should concern anyone who cares about Christian liberties and free speech in this country.
“However, Jesus told Christians to expect persecution, and I am determined to continue my ministry as while there is always opposition, I also see many people positively impacted.
“Jesus changed my life when I was young, and I’m passionate about engaging people with the hope that it made a big difference for me.