The thought police are here. Well, at least in Britain, they are. And they’re targeting prayer.
The cult of abortion has gotten so bad in some places that the police have been brought in to arrest and fine people for even thinking – or praying – about the subject. The town of Bournemouth, England is the latest example.
Adam Smith-Connor, a 49-year-old physiotherapist and British army veteran, was approached recently by two police officers as he was standing near an abortion facility in Bournemouth where his son had been aborted 20 years ago. They asked him what he was doing.
Americans with even a basic knowledge of their own constitutional rights will be shocked by what transpired next. Watch the video here.
🚨BREAKING: Army vet fined for silent prayer (for his late son) in PSPO zone near abortion facility in Bournemouth.
"I'm sorry for your loss, but ultimately, we have to go along with the guidelines of the PSPO…"
— Lois McLatchie (@LoisMcLatch) January 19, 2023
“Well, I’m praying,” Smith-Connor told the police.
“Just for your awareness, you are in an area which is governed by a Public Space Protection Order. I don’t know if you’re aware,” one of the officers stated.
“I am aware,” Smith-Connor replied.
“They also call it a Safe Zone. There are signs located in the area, just to make you are aware of that and the area of where certain activities are prohibited,” the officer continued.
“Sure, yes,” Smith-Connor said.
“In terms of that, can I ask what is the nature of your prayer today?” the officer asked.
“What is the nature of the prayer? I’m praying for my son,” Smith-Connor replied.
“I don’t want to probe, I don’t want to sort of ask you to elaborate on that…but at the same time it would be remiss of me to sort of, not mention the, like I say, the area of your activity. In terms of, there is a clause within the Public Space Protection Order around prayer, and around disapproval around the activities at the clinic here.”
After more probing by one of the police officers, Smith-Connor admits he is praying for his deceased son, but doesn’t mention the abortion that killed him. After expressing their condolences, the officer says she believes Smith-Connor is in breach of the Public Space Protection Order for praying and “expressing disapproval” of the abortion activities at the nearby facility.
Smith-Connor was fined £100 (approximately $124.00) for praying.
Yes, you read that correctly. For praying.
It’s sad to say, but Smith-Connor is not the first person to be fined for silently praying inside one of those “Public Space Protection Order” (PSPO) zones. The Daily Citizen reported last month on a similar case involving 45-year-old Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was confronted in front of a Birmingham abortion seller’s premises while silently praying. She was actually arrested and briefly incarcerated, and will have to appear before a magistrate in February to answer on four counts of violating local law.
Britain’s PSPOs are explained here. The first sentence gives away the British government’s overbroad delegation of authority: “Local authorities understand well how anti-social behaviour can blight the lives of people in their local communities, with those affected often feeling powerless to act” (emphasis added).
Anti-social behavior is defined as “activities that have taken place [that] have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality,” including those activities that are merely “likely” to occur.
Silent prayer has now become anti-social behavior in Britain. At least – or maybe especially – when someone is praying about abortion.
Does any of this give you the chills? And not like in a rollercoaster kind of way either?
Lawyers with ADF-UK, the Britain-based arm of Alliance Defending Freedom, believe that thoughts and prayers should not be criminalized, and they are coming to the defense of Smith-Connor. They are gathering up petition signatures asking Parliament to protect the freedom of speech and thought and refrain from legislating “buffer zones” around abortion facilities across England and Wales.
“Nobody should be criminalised for what they believe – especially not when they express that belief silently, in the privacy of their own minds. Just like in the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce last month, Adam could now face prosecution for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK, said in a press release.
“The rapid proliferation of orders criminalising volunteers such as Adam and Isabel should be a wake up call to all those who value freedom of expression – even freedom of thought – no matter their views on abortion,” he continued.
While there are some similarities between British and American restrictions on public activities near abortion clinics, there are stark differences as well. Some U.S. states and cities have created “buffer zone” laws prohibiting speech within a certain distance of the entrances to an abortion facility, but those have been severely limited or struck down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions based on the First Amendment.
Federal law on the subject mainly centers around the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, but it deals more with physically interfering with women seeking to enter facilities that provide “reproductive health services.”
And in the few instances where local governments have attempted to use other types of local ordinances such as COVID restrictions to, in effect, arrest people for praying on a sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic during the pandemic – such as in Greensboro, North Carolina – things did not end well for the local governments involved.
The Founders were prescient to give us the First Amendment as a barrier to most attempts by government to silence expression that goes contrary to the government’s point of view. However, it takes constitutionalist judges to keep it that way, and it takes citizens actively participating in their own self-government to ensure that this nation remains free to speak, think and pray.
As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in an 1809 letter, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”