Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman has announced that silent prayer near abortion providers is not a crime. It’s been hailed as a “real victory for free speech, and pro-life prayer, and for those who showed courage and resilience in standing up for both mothers and babies”.
Ms Braverman has written to every police force in the UK to say that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful”.
In the past 12 months, at least 3 people in Britain were arrested for what critics described as “thought crimes” – praying silently in their heads at facilities were abortions were performed.
The Home Secretary also reminded police that “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence”.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce – the pro-life advocate whose arrest for “praying in my head” went viral, racking up millions of views worldwide – welcomed the intevention by Ms Braverman.
Arrested for praying, in her head
— Winston Marshall (@MrWinMarshall) December 22, 2022
She told the Catholic Herald: “It is not for the Government to determine my beliefs on abortion, my beliefs that women deserve better support, nor police the faith that I hold in my own mind.
“I’m delighted to see the Home Secretary clarify to police that it is not a crime to pray inside your own mind.
“This is a basic tenet of a free democracy – yet I have been arrested twice for doing no more than that.”
The Home Secretary’s intervention was welcomed by Megan Ní Scealláin of the Life Institute who said that it was a “real victory for free speech, and pro-life prayer, and for those who showed courage and resilience in standing up for both mothers and babies”.
“Isabel, and Fr Seán Gough and others who have been arrested for their silent witness are a real inspiration to the hundreds of thousands of people who are horrified by the spiralling abortion rates and who want to offer a better answer for mothers and babies,” she said.
RALLY FOR LIFE VOX POPS: "We stand in solidarity to show that human life matters"
— Rallyforlife (@theRallyforLife) July 20, 2023
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK who have assisted pro-life advocates in these cases, added: “the government’s focus on restoring common sense to British policing is welcome and long overdue.
“Too often, of late, arrests have been justified by reference to subjective notions of offence rather than an objective application of the law.
“Politicised policing seriously threatens democracy, which relies on the right to freedom of speech and free and frank exchange of viewpoints to be effectively realised.”
“If Isabel had been shouting loudly about climate change on the street where she stood, there would have been no arrest,” he said.
“But because her silent, personal thoughts expressed a particular view on abortion – one that is not approved of by the authorities – she was arrested, dragged through the courts, found innocent, re-arrested, and now has been waiting months with a possible court case looming over her while authorities take their time to decide whether her thoughts were allegedly ‘criminal’.”
“The Crown Prosecution Service, the Magistrates, and the Home Secretary have rightly concluded that silent prayer is not unlawful. Freedom of thought is an absolute right,” the lawyer added.
“Yet this basic fact, supported by domestic and international law, has not been brought to bear by West Midlands Police and Bournemouth City Council, who have sought to criminalise Isabel Vaughan Spruce and Adam Smith-Connor, respectively, for nothing other than praying in their minds.
“There is now an urgent need for legal changes to stem the trend of policing by politics and return to policing by consent.
“We hope the Home Secretary’s public commitment to tackling the issue will be brought to bear in legislation and guidance.”
Others who have been targeted because they engaged in silent prayer in the Birmingham “buffer zone” include Fr Seán Gough who had charges dismissed after he was arrested for silent prayer and for having a pro-life bumper sticker on his car within the zone.
In addition, Adam Smith-Connor is also being prosecuted for praying on a street near a Bournemouth abortion clinic, the Catholic Herald reported.
WATCH: “Police told me my prayer was an offence — I’m was arrested for my silent thoughts”: Isabel Vaughan-Spruce speaks to Gript about her experience of being arrested not only once, but twice, for praying near an abortion facility in Birmingham. https://t.co/IF7fna8jiG pic.twitter.com/71g3oeRLNG
— gript (@griptmedia) March 10, 2023
@FrSeanDGough and Isabel Vaughan-Spruce receive “NOT GUILTY!” verdict for silent prayer thoughtcrime 🙏🏻
— unborn lives matter (@RockofLifeNI) February 16, 2023