In March of this year, the British parliament passed a measure making it illegal to silently pray outside abortion facilities. Now, a recent letter from the British Home Secretary Suella Braverman may make that law moot, as Braverman instructed the country’s police forces that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful.”
Braverman’s letter also clarified that “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence.” The letter is widely understood to reference the country’s buffer zone law.
With its “buffer zone” law, the United Kingdom outlawed all forms of pro-life activity – including silent prayer – outside the country’s abortion facilities. Since that time, several people have been arrested for “thought crime,” including Fr. Sean Gough, an army veteran named Adam Smith-Connor, and Isabel Vaughn-Spruce, director of March for Life UK. All three were standing silently and peacefully at the time of their arrest, with Vaughan-Spruce telling police she “might” be praying.
Vaughan-Spruce welcomed news of the letter. “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,” she said. “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.”
Alliance Defending Freedom UK, which has represented all three in their criminal charges, also praised news of the letter.
“The government’s focus on restoring common sense to British policing is welcome and long overdue,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, the group’s legal counsel. “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.”