WESTMINSTER, England (Alliance Defending Freedom) — Members of Britain’s Parliament have approved the introduction of censorship zones (also known as “buffer zones”) outside of abortion facilities across England and Wales.
Clause 11 (formerly Clause 9 then Clause 10) of the Public Order Bill could criminalize any form of “influence” outside of abortion facilities – including in the form of silent prayer.
READ: Kentucky court rules ‘buffer zone’ outside abortion clinic violates First Amendment
An amendment to permit silent prayer and consensual conversations within the censorship zones was proposed by Andrew Lewer MP, but failed to pass after a vote of 116 to 299.
“Today’s vote marks a watershed moment for fundamental rights and freedoms in our country. Parliament had an opportunity to reject the criminalization of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all. Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalize peaceful activities such as silent prayer and consensual conversation,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, the legal organisation working to promote fundamental freedoms.
Today it’s abortion. Tomorrow it could be another contested matter of political debate. The principle remains that the government should never be able to punish anyone for prayer, let alone silent prayer, and peaceful and consensual conversation. Thankfully, where the clause initially called for a prison sentence for those convicted of engaging in these peaceful activities near abortion facilities, the penalty now has been reduced to a fine. Nevertheless, it is extremely regrettable that Parliament, which exists to protect and champion the rights of the electorate, has taken a clear stance against fundamental freedoms, opening the door for nationwide thought-crime prosecution.
UPDATE (3/30/23): Fr. Fidelis is jailed along with another pro-life hero
Father Fidelis has been sentenced to 270 days in jail by a Michigan court, while fellow Red Rose rescuer Matthew Connolly was sentenced to 90 days in jail and told to pay fines.
A witness to the sentencing hearing reported that the judge had called Fr. Fidelis, a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal who has dedicated his life to the unborn, “a fraud in habit.”
Like their companions Elizabeth Wagi and Jacob Gregor, who received lighter penalties, Moscinski and Connolly were pronounced guilty of “trespassing, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace/interfering with a business” on February 24, 2023 at the 46th District Courthouse in Southfield, Michigan.
Wagi received 18 months’ probation with fines and was ordered not to go anywhere near an abortion facility or her co-defendants. Gregor got 12 months’ probation with fines and 10 days community service. He was told not to speak to convicted church members.
LifeSiteNews is still awaiting news of Dr. Monica Miller and Laura Gies, who were found guilty of trespassing and resisting arrest.
The Southfield trial stemmed from a Red Rose Rescue at the Northland Family Planning abortion center, one of three abortion centers owned and operated by Renee Chelian, on April 23, 2021.
Pro-life priest and Red Rose Rescuer Fr. Fidelis Moscinski has been found guilty of violating the Freedom to Access Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
Yesterday Fr. Fidelis was convicted of the federal crime for a July 2022 “lock and block” rescue he conducted at a Planned Parenthood in Hempstead, New York. The priest is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24 and faces up to six months in federal prison.
Sign the petition to let Fr. Fidelis know you support him and are praying for him.
A Pennsylvania court issued a split ruling against a pro-life Franciscan priest and activist arrested after he entered an abortion clinic to help women choose life.
Father Christopher “Fidelis” Moscinski was found guilty of two misdemeanor charges and not guilty of a felony trespass and a misdemeanor resist, for participating in a Red Rose Rescue at a Planned Parenthood.
Fr. Moscinski entered the clinic on August 27, 2021 with red roses and pro-life literature ready to hand out to women and persuading them to choose life for their children.
Fr. Fidelis has participated in many Red Rose Rescues at abortion centers, and for this has been imprisoned multiple times.
He was also previously arrested for trying to save babies in Ohio in June 2021 and in New Jersey in January 2020.
After the court decision, Fr. Fidelis urged people to “continue keeping all pro-lifers anywhere who are facing charges, especially federal charges, in your prayers, and that God can bring some good out of this unjust persecution.”
Sign this petition today to let Fr. Fidelis know you stand with him and his heroic fight to save unborn lives from abortion.
Fellow pro-life activist and Red Rose Rescuer Will Goodman told LifeSite’s Jim Hale that the court’s ruling to drop one felony and reject another was a “big victory.”But the crackdown on pro-lifers continues!
Just recently the Biden administration targeted Fr. Fidelis and other pro-life activists for Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) violation charges.
This same law was also used by the FBI to raid the home of pro-life Catholic dad Mark Houck last month.
It’s really a disgrace that in America pro-lifers are increasingly being attacked and persecuted simply because they stand for life.
Fr. Fidelis Moscinski needs your prayers and support now more than ever as he continues to fearlessly battle for the unborn.
SIGN THIS PETITION TODAY to tell Fr. Fidelis you stand with him and his courageous fight!
‘Big victory’: Felonies tossed in split verdict for priest attempting rescue of unborn
BREAKING NEWS: Father Fidelis Legal Verdict reaction LIVE by Legal team
FBI charges pro-life priest with violating abortion access law one week after Mark Houck raid
READ: 40 Days for Life sues New York county for ‘buffer zone’ law suppressing pro-life speech
Concerns about criminalizing thought
The vote comes despite the most recent government review (2018) finding that censorship zones would be an unnecessary and “disproportionate” restriction on rights, given that harassment is already criminalized under existing legislation, and instances of harassment outside abortion facilities were found to be “rare.”
Most frequently, according to the review, volunteers pray, or offer leaflets about help services available to women who would be interested in alternatives to abortion.
According to BBC polling last year, almost 1 in 5 women who have abortions do so against their will.
Arrests for silently praying
The move comes the day after news that charitable volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for the second time for praying silently, in her mind, near an abortion facility in Birmingham, where local authorities have implemented a “buffer zone” via a Public Spaces Protection Order.
The arrest, which was attended by six police officers, comes only weeks after Vaughan-Spruce was found “not guilty” for the same activity by the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. She had been criminally charged in December on the basis that her silent, imperceptible prayers amounted to “intimidation.”
READ: English politicians advance bill establishing ‘buffer zones’ around abortion facilities
The prosecution was not able to present any evidence to the court to substantiate the “thought-crime,” and Vaughan-Spruce’s name was cleared, along with Father Sean Gough, who was similarly charged and acquitted.
“Only three weeks ago, the Court made clear that my silent prayers were not a crime. And yet, again, I have been arrested and treated like a criminal for having the exact same thoughts in my head, in the same location. The ambiguity of laws that limit free expression and thought – even in peaceful, consensual conversation or in silent, internal prayer – leads to abject confusion, to the detriment of our essential fundamental rights. Nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts,” said Vaughan-Spruce.
“Parliament’s introduction of censorship zones across the country today will mean that many more innocent people like Isabel Vaughan-Spruce will be unjustly criminalized for their silent thoughts, or for peacefully offering leaflets about charitable help available to women who might want to hear about other options. In the name of choice, these zones actually eliminate the options available to women. A free society should never prohibit the peaceful exchange of information,” commented Igunnubole.
READ: UK abortion facility ‘bubble zone’ prohibits pro-lifers from praying and making the Sign of the Cross
MPs raise concerns
Speaking in Parliament, Conservative MP Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) backed his proposed amendment to protect silent prayer and consensual conversation. He condemned harassment against women in every circumstance, but made clear that such actions are “a world away” from the police being able to detain people and question them for praying silently.
“Police shouldn’t be asking ‘What are you thinking about?!’” said Lewer.
“Censorship of this sort is a notoriously slippery slope. It might not be your thoughts that are criminalised today, but I think we should all be careful not to open the door to that tomorrow about some other opinions that people may hold about something else,” the MP continued.
Sir John Hayes, Member for South Holland and The Deepings, emphasized that this amendment should not be seen as an opportunity to debate abortion, but was a matter of protecting free speech. “This is about freedom – it’s not about the purpose of freedom or the location of it. It’s about the ability to think, and speak, and pray freely,” he explained.
READ: UK pro-life group urges public to oppose ‘buffer zones’ outside Scottish abortion mills
Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, cautioned other Members that “we are making a momentous step, we are crossing an enormous river. When we criminalize prayer… or indeed consensual conversations… we are doing something of enormous significance.” He ended his remarks with the question, “What are we doing, by saying that people should not be allowed to pray, quietly, on their own?”
Nick Fletcher, MP for Don Valley, reminded the chamber that women “might actually want somebody to turn to… And if somebody is being coerced… to have a forced abortion, that [volunteer] could be somebody… who is actually there to help.”
Sir Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, expressed his views on Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest before making a comparison with George Orwell’s 1984:
There was nothing [Vaughan-Spruce] was obviously doing which was harassment or in any way objectionable. The police officer had to actually go into her mind… this is what surely is quite dangerous.
Reprinted with permission from the Alliance Defending Freedom.