A 72-year-old Christian preacher has been fined nearly A$5,000 for protesting outside a London abortion clinic. Stephen Green was found to have breached a police order by quietly reading from his Bible in a so called ‘buffer zone,’ officially known as a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) zone, for holding up a sign with the verse he was reading aloud outside an abortion clinic.
The UK law prohibits any ‘act of disapproval’ of abortion within a PSPO zone which includes praying and reading from the Bible. The Welshman had read out aloud the verse from Psalm 139:13 which implies that life is sacred from the moment of conception. It reads: For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. Christian Concern claims the verse is arguably one of the most famous and well-known pieces of scripture in the Bible.
Mr. Green pleaded not guilty, citing his right to freedom of expression, but the judge still convicted him.
She ruled: “The extract of the Psalm mentioning ‘my mother’s womb’ was an act of protest of abortion. There were less controversial verses you could have chosen to display. I can come to no other conclusion than that [the verse] was an act of disapproval [of abortion services] — an act prohibited [by the PSPO].
While admitting that the PSPO was “a significant interference” of Mr. Green’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, she said those rights had to be weighed against individuals accessing abortion services. The judge concluded that Mr. Green’s “protest was peaceful…but your actions were not proportionate….I find you guilty as summoned.” The judge imposed a one year conditional discharge, a small victim surcharge and a costs order totaling around A$4,700.
Mr. Green vowed to appeal to the Crown Court, saying: “As a Christian I should be able to preach freely all over the land. Psalm 139 is about how we all belong to God from conception. Buffer zones and this conviction is a direct attack on the Bible and free speech, which is being licensed by the state. I have no choice but to continue to defend myself and fight for justice.”
Christian Concern writes: “It is believed that the last time something like this happened in this country was in 1670. The Quakers William Penn and William Meade were arrested and put on trial for a silent religious act in a public street for an apparent contravention of an Act of Parliament that prohibited gatherings of more than five people. Their brave stand eventually led to the free speech clause of Pennsylvania and in due course, the American constitution.
Photo: Stephen Green (third from left) with supporters – Christian Concern