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A silent prayer for common sense


WILL historians decide that the date thinking became a crime in the UK was December 6, 2022? On that day Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a charity worker, was standing silently on her own on the pavement opposite an abortion clinic in Birmingham. The clinic was closed at the time. Three police officers approached her and this exchange followed.

Police officer: ‘Are you praying?’

Vaughan-Spruce: ‘I might be praying in my head, but not out loud.’

The officers searched, arrested, detained, interrogated and charged her with breaching a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), a buffer zone, which the local council had set up within a 150-metre radius around the clinic. ‘Prayer’ is included as an offence within the zone. Here is a video of the arrest.

Vaughan-Spruce, who is involved with March for Life UK, is due in court next month to answer four charges, including intimidation. It will be interesting to see if the magistrates ask her if she found it intimidating to be arrested for standing in silence. She is being defended by the faith-based advocacy group ADF and has a defence fund. A condition of her bail is that she is banned from taking part in any other form of public prayer to ‘prevent further offences’.

(I can’t resist comparing standing in silent prayer with the practice of ‘taking the knee’ which the police are encouraged to do when confronted by violent mobs. I don’t know if they are permitted to pray at the same time.)

Those of us who have opposed the use of PSPOs at abortion clinics could see this coming.

The way this story has been covered in the media is telling. The video of the arrest has gone viral worldwide with millions of views. But I can find no mention of it on the BBC or the Guardian (as neither of these outlets is my go-to news source, perhaps I don’t know where to look.) But many media platforms have recognised that ‘thought crime,’ as predicted by George Orwell in 1984 has arrived, albeit 40 years later.

Here are some of the below-the-line comments on the GB News YouTube Channel:

‘I’m an atheist but stopping someone praying silently is insane!! It is NOT intimidation! Even George Orwell would be shocked by this!’

‘Is this news real? if so then it is absolutely terrifying.’

‘It’s so ridiculously stupid. The police ought to be ashamed of themselves. This is not about abortion it’s about police controlling our bloody thoughts. Seriously!!!’

Tucker Carlson interviewed Vaughan-Spruce on Fox News. He did not pull his punches. I counted the word ‘evil’ four times. Comments included:

‘The enemy knows there’s power in prayer.’

‘I was a child in the 80s living in a communist totalitarian state. Every day I passed in front of a church on my way to school. Making the sign of the cross was banned by law but my father thought (sic) me how to make it using my tongue inside my mouth . . . It saddens me so deeply seeing modern so-called free societies policing people’s thoughts and making laws forbidding prayer in public places, even when prayer is kept personal in the person’s own mind.’

‘When your house gets burgled it’s “sorry there’s not enough police officers”,  but when you commit a thought crime outside an abortion clinic, suddenly three police officers appear.’

And this from the New York Post report:

‘Thank you so much, Mr policeman, for protecting me, my family and friends from this beautiful person. You must be so proud of your weak, politically correct self.’

‘This is terrifying, it shows how you have no personal rights in the UK, around the world and soon here in the US, this is very terrifying.’

‘I know comparing real events to 1984 is treated as a meme, but this is literally a thought crime.’

Sky News Australia:

‘They arrested her on the grounds of a council order that no one within 150 metres of an abortion clinic could be seen to be giving outward approval or disapproval towards the practice otherwise it’s a criminal offence. So it’s now a criminal offence for giving a look of outward approval or disapproval’.

‘She should say in court, “I was praying that the police officers were safe and happy, and that all the magistrates and judges in the world were safe and happy as well”. Let’s see them fine her for that.’

If the BBC is indifferent to the criminalisation of wrong-think, our courts and Parliament are positively welcoming it. On December 7 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Northern Ireland could create ‘safe access zones’ (i.e. buffer zones) around abortion clinics. They did this after Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested and therefore in the knowledge that silent prayer outside a closed clinic would likely become an offence. That leaves Parliament alone to uphold our basic freedoms. Right? On October 18, 2022, MPs voted by 297 to 110 to introduce buffer zones outside abortion clinics as part of the Public Order Bill. These zones would criminalise anyone within 150 metres of an abortion clinic who offered a woman ‘practical, emotional, or financial support in order to be able to continue her pregnancy.’ (I urged my MP to vote against this amendment – he abstained). So, our councils, our police, our courts, our state broadcaster and our elected representatives won’t uphold the freedom to think or pray privately. That leaves the likes of GB News, TCW and an unknown army of prayer warriors who won’t give in to this tyranny. If you believe, as I do, that prayer is the most powerful force in the world, then I’d say the odds are good that we will win this war!

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Simon Davies
Simon Davies
Simon Davies is a social care professional who takes a particular interest in medical ethics and right-to-life issues.

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