A recent incident in the UK serves as a warning of the dangers that Britain’s censorious state poses to the right to free speech.
Isabel-Vaughan-Spruce, a charity volunteer, was arrested and charged for a silent prayer “thought crime” near an abortion facility
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) released a video on Thursday showing police confronting Spruce, who was arrested for violating a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) after she was seen praying silently near an abortion facility four times in Kings Norton, Birmingham.
Spruce, a longtime charity worker for vulnerable women and children, was praying in silence when police officers approached her and inquired about what she was doing outside the abortion clinic. She said that she “might be praying in my head, not out loud.”
Police: I’ll ask you once more. Will you voluntarily come with us now to the police station for me to ask you some questions about today and other days where there are allegations that you’ve broken public spaces protection?
Spruce: If I’ve got a choice, then no.
Police: Okay, well, then you’re under arrest. Suspicion of failing to comply with a public space protection order which is under the Anti-Social Behavior Crime and Policing Act of 2014.
Watch the video below:
WATCH: British Police Officers arrest a woman for praying outside an abortion clinic. pic.twitter.com/JlozDcICX5
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) December 22, 2022
“No citizen should be criminalised for legitimate, peaceful activity, even prayer. Isabel’s case demonstrates just how far the state can go if we do not vigilantly guard fundamental rights and freedoms. Politicians in Westminster and Holyrood should take note as they consider rolling out this censorial measure nationwide – if we truly value civil liberties and fundamental rights it should unfathomable for the law to permit a repeat of Isabel’s experience, let alone endorsed by our elected representatives and rolled out nationally”,” said Lois McLatchie, from Scotland, communications officer for ADF UK.
“The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 permits a constable to search an arrested person “for anything he might use to assist him to escape lawful custody” or “which might be evidence relating to an offence”. Such searches must be “reasonably required”. We can safely conclude that our fundamental rights and freedoms are in jeopardy if a search of hair is considered “reasonably required” for a suspected crime of praying, even silent prayer. As the Public Order Bill goes through Parliament, it’s crucial that Isabel’s experience is kept firmly in the mind of MPs. No one should be criminalised for the peaceful, harmless practice of their faith, let alone thoughts,” added Jeremiah Igunnubole, Legal Counsel for ADF UK.
As part of a larger effort to overturn censorship zone laws, ADF UK is offering its support to Isabel. Visit www.adf.uk/support-Isabel to donate.
More from adf:
A “Thoughtcrime” in UK Law?
The censorship zone measure introduced by Birmingham authorities via a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) criminalises individuals percieved to be “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval” in relation to abortion, including through “verbal or written means, prayer or counselling…”.
“It’s abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind. Censorship zones purport to ban harassment, which is already illegal. Nobody should ever be subject to harassment. But what I did was the furthest thing from harmful – I was exercising my freedom of thought, my freedom of religion, inside the privacy of my own mind. Nobody should be criminalised for thinking and for praying, in a public space in the UK,” said Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, following her arrest for silent prayer.
Westminster, Holyrood weigh up nationalising censorship zones in light of human rights concerns
In Westminster, parliamentarians are considering legislation to introduce censorship zones around abortion facilities across England and Wales. Clause 9 of the Public Order Bill, currently under parliamentary debate, would prohibit pro-life volunteers from “influencing”, “advising”, “persuading”, “informing”, “occupying space” or even “expressing opinion” within the vicinity of an abortion facility.
Those who breach the rules could face up to two years in prison.