THE trial of outspoken preacher Pastor James McConnell is starting today after he was accused of making grossly offensive remarks about Islam.
Pastor McConnell faces charges at Belfast Magistrates’ Court relating to a sermon he gave in his north Belfast church last year in which he called the religion “satanic” and “heathen”.
His trial is expected to last three days.
One of the witnesses called to give evidence could be the BBC Northern Ireland presenter Stephen Nolan.
Pastor McConnell, of Shore Road, Newtownabbey, is charged with improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network.
His remarks about Islam were made at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast in May 2014 and were streamed online.
A huge throng of supporters arrived this morning with the 78-year-old for his hearing at the Laganside Complex.
Defence solicitor Joe Rice has asked Stephen Nolan to attend the hearing after he had interviewed Pastor McConnell for both his radio and TV shows.
But north Belfast presenter referred the request to the BBC’s legal department.
The BBC has questioned what relevance Mr Nolan has to the case.
At a previous court hearing, Pastor McConnell told hundreds of his supporters outside court: “As far as I am concerned the Muslim issue is over.”
To cheers from his supporters, he added: “The issue is the freedom of speech; the freedom of conscience; the freedom of worship and the freedom of preaching the gospel and saying what is in your heart.
“I hope I get my Christmas dinner. I will be there on December 14, 15 and 16. I am not running away, definitely not. I am going to take my stand for the Lord.”
He added that he was prepared to go to prison for his religious views.