Police in the United Kingdom continue to target people for praying silently or displaying Bible verses near abortion clinics even while they face criticism for allowing over 100,000 pro-Hamas protestors to chant about eliminating Israel and waging jihad.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman sent a letter to English and Welsh police leaders last month over actions she says have eroded public trust in the police, including repeated harassment of people silently praying near abortion clinics. Braverman also made clear that “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence,” and “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful.”
Police haven’t gotten the message.
On October 18, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was fined for silently praying inside a censorship zone. Vaughan-Spruce has been arrested twice in the past year for silently praying but has been either acquitted or had the charges dropped in both instances. Less than a month ago, the West Midlands Police Department informed her that it would not press charges against her after investigating for six months, issuing her an apology for the time it took them to decide.
The censorship areas, called buffer zones, are part of the Public Spaces Protection Order that prohibits any form of protest within 150 meters of an abortion clinic. The law asserts:
It is an offence for a person who is within a safe access zone to do an act with the intent of, or reckless as to whether it has the effect of — (a) influencing any person’s decision to access, provide or facilitate the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic, (b) obstructing or impeding any person accessing, providing, or facilitating the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic, or (c) causing harassment, alarm or distress to any person in connection with a decision to access, provide, or facilitate the provision of abortion services at an abortion clinic, where the person mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) is within the safe access zone for the abortion clinic.
Parliament voted down an amendment that would have made an exception for silent prayer. Police have continually used the law to arrest or harass people for praying silently near abortion clinics.
Despite Braverman’s clear direction that silent prayer is not unlawful, that is exactly what Vaughan-Spruce was fined for. Video has been released showing the officer’s interaction with Vaughan-Spruce in which the officer interrogates her about, among other things, the nature of her thoughts.
Here is the list of questions the officer asked:
“Are you part of an organized protest?”
“Are you part of a pro-life organization or pro-choice organization?”
“Are you protesting?”
“Are you here to pray for the lives of unborn children?”
“Can your action be carried out elsewhere?”
“Why have you chosen the location here to stand?”
The officer continued to lead the conversation in a way that showed she viewed Vaughan-Spruce’s silent prayer as a protest, despite Vaughan-Spruce’s insistence that she was not protesting.
Vaughan-Spruce released a statement in which she said her intent was to pray for women and that the government must make its law clear.
“The UK government urgently needs to clarify that silent thoughts can never be illegal — even if those thoughts are in disagreement with the views of the State. This is the third time I have been treated like a criminal for peacefully, silently, and imperceptibly praying for women who are likely facing one of the worst days of their lives.
The buffer zone regulation has already sought to prevent me and others from counselling women desperately in need of help. And now, authorities are trying to remove my ability even to pray for these women. To fine somebody simply for their thoughts is grossly Orwellian and an insult to the freedoms that Britain is meant to protect.”
She is certainly not the only one to be arrested recently for praying in their mind. On October 13, a police officer interrogated Patrick Parkes on the nature of his prayer and gave him a warning. He was told he would be fined if he was caught praying again.
Last year police approached British army veteran Adam Smith-Connor and asked him what he was praying silently about. Smith-Connor said he was praying for his son who was killed in an abortion. Officers fined him for praying inside a censorship area. He refused to pay the fine and he was not prosecuted.
Earlier this year, Catholic priest Sean Gough was charged for holding a sign near an abortion clinic that read, “praying for free speech.”
A Christian preacher was charged and faces up to six months in prison and a fine amounting to $1,000 for holding a sign reading, “Psalm 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.”
The preacher, Stephen Green, was shocked to receive the summons, stating, “I see this prosecution as an attack on the Bible and free speech. I am determined to defend myself and fight for justice.”
“To bar Christian witness and to control what people can say in an area is draconian and anti-Christian. There is a huge principle at stake here. If we are not free to hold a sign with a verse from Psalm 139 on it in a London street, then none of us is free.”
Meanwhile, U.K. police face backlash after allowing huge protests in which pro-Hamas marchers chanted for “jihad” against Israel and an “intifada revolution.”
At one protest, a speaker shouted, “What is the solution to liberate people in the concentration camp called Palestine?”, to which men in the crowd answered, “Jihad, jihad, jihad!”
In a separate protest, 100,000 people marched from Hyde Park to Westminster. A five-year-old girl with a loudspeaker chanted slogans such as, “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” a phrase associated with the destruction of Israel. Many of the signs featured appalling antisemitic messages, including “Death to settler colonialism everywhere” and “Zionism is Naziism.”
Since the Israeli-Hamas war started, antisemitic attacks have tripled in the U.K. compared to the same period last year, according to the Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters,
The U.K. is seeking to silence all peaceful dissent — even silent dissent — to its belief that abortion is a good and unquestionable action. They are doing this not by trying to persuade pro-lifers to their point of view but by persecuting Christians for silently praying for women and their unborn babies. In the meantime, though, the government touts its commitment to free speech by allowing mobs of antisemitic terrorist supporters to call for the eradication of a nation and celebrate the murder, torture, and kidnapping of hundreds of Jewish women, children, and the elderly.
This is one of the key issues with speech, or in this case, thought laws. Who determines what is criminal for someone to say or think? In the U.K. today, it’s the government.
And this government believes that it is harmful for a person to pray silently within 492 feet of an abortion clinic but applauds itself for letting 100,000 people march in the streets glorifying acts of terrorism and chanting for genocide and death to Jews.
Should a group of people with such a moral compass really be determining what is legal to say, think, or believe?
The fact is, no one should be able to make laws regarding non-violent speech or beliefs. It only becomes more absurd when the belief or prayer is internal, impossible to prove, and without even a word to offend.
Once a government dictates what is and is not acceptable belief, no one is free. Americans must be aware of what is happening in our current world and what is at stake. The push for hate speech laws and calls for censorship of unfavored ideas or beliefs or so-called “disinformation” are often framed as empathetic, moral even, but they give rise to more government control. And more government control always leads to the loss of individual rights and tyranny.
Such demands are anathema to a free society and should be resisted at every turn. Otherwise, we may all soon be answering to a police officer about what we are praying about in our minds.
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