British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has told UK police forces that people should not be arrested for praying silently. She wrote in a letter that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful” and that “holding lawful opinions is not a criminal offence.”
Her letter was released following the arrest of several pro-life campaigners for praying silently within abortion clinic ‘buffer zones.’
Christian Today reports Birmingham priest Father Sean Gough was cleared at a trial. So was March for Life co-director Isabel Vaughan-Spruce who has since been arrested over another alleged offence. She is still waiting to hear if she will be charged for a second time. Afghanistan war veteran Adam Smith-Connor is due to stand trial in Poole in November.
All three were defended by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK which welcomed Ms. Braverman’s intervention. “The government’s focus on restoring common sense to British policing is welcome and long overdue,” said the group’s legal counsel, Jeremiah Igunnubole.
“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,” he continued, labeling the ‘buffer zones’ as “censorial” and “a threat to democracy.”
Christian Today reports the UK government passed legislation earlier this year to roll out ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics across the country. An amendment that would have protected silent prayer and offers of charitable support to women was rejected.
In Scotland, First Minister Humza Yousaf has reiterated his government’s support for a bill to introduce ‘buffer zones.’ ADF UK’s spokesperson in Scotland, Lois McLatchie Miller, said it may lead to citizens being “prosecuted for the thoughts held inside their minds on certain streets, bringing back the possibility of literal ‘thought trials’ in Scotland akin to the blasphemy trials of long ago”.