BIRMINGHAM, England (Alliance Defending Freedom) — Footage obtained by ADF UK shows an officer employed by West Midlands Police issuing a fine to a Christian standing still and praying silently within an abortion facility “buffer zone” in Birmingham on October 18.
The praying individual in the footage was Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the volunteer who has already been vindicated twice for having committed no crime by silently praying inside a “buffer zone.”
Vaughan-Spruce clarified that she was not present in the zone as an act of protest. There is no prohibition on being merely present in the zone. Yet, the Police Community Support Officer asks if she is silently praying for “unborn children” and if she is a member of a pro-life or pro-choice organisation.
“The U.K. government urgently needs to clarify that silent thoughts can never be illegal – even if those thoughts are in disagreement with the views of the State. This is the third time I have been treated like a criminal for peacefully, silently, and imperceptibly praying for women who are likely facing one of the worst days of their lives,” explained Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.
“The buffer zone regulation has already sought to prevent me and others from counseling women desperately in need of help. And now, authorities are trying to remove my ability even to pray for these women. To fine somebody simply for their thoughts is grossly Orwellian and an insult to the freedoms that Britain is meant to protect,” she continued.
Despite being subject to invasive questioning on the street, and receiving a notice of a fine, the Council later indicated it would not pursue the fine on this occasion, but issued a warning that it would do so in the future.
One of several Christians fined
The incident is not isolated. Also in Birmingham, another Christian, Patrick Parkes, was approached by officers on October 13 at the same location and grilled as to the content of his silent prayers. Parkes later received a warning that he would be fined if he repeated his actions.
A third individual received a similar warning as a result of recording the footage of the officer’s interaction with Parkes.
A long ordeal
In March, Vaughan-Spruce was brought before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after being arrested for praying in the “buffer zone,” in which authorities have banned any “expression of approval or disapproval of abortion,” including through prayer. The arrest was captured on a viral video.
Though fully acquitted, Vaughan-Spruce was arrested again only weeks later for the same action – silently praying in her head in the censorial “buffer zone.” Last month, authorities concluded their investigation into her second “thoughtcrime” without bringing another charge, and apologized for the length of her ordeal.
Yet now, just weeks later, authorities have again sought to penalize Vaughan-Spruce for peaceful, silent prayer.
“It’s not for authorities to determine the thoughts in the privacy of an individual’s mind. Yet the PCSO officer saw fit to pry into the content of Isabel’s private prayers, and inquire as to her membership of a pro-life organisation – neither of which are criminal acts. To think that our already stretched policing resources are being squandered on silent prayers this month – at a time when significant demands are being placed on police forces – is remarkable,” commented Lorcàn Price, Barrister and Legal Counsel for ADF UK, who have supported the legal defense of Vaughan-Spruce and others who have been charged for “thoughtcrimes.”
“In the same week that officers have been criticized for failing to adequately police glorification of terror, they apparently had no hesitation to investigate what groups a Christian is a member of and the subject of their prayers,” he continued.
“The enforcement policy of police forces in relation to matters concerning speech and thought is now intolerably unclear. Legislators must now introduce concrete changes to law to safeguard the peaceful expressions of speech and free exercise of thought. Paying lip service to fundamental rights is insufficient. A failure to act will not only damage any remaining confidence in policing, but will also tarnish the UK’s reputation for fundamental rights abroad,” he continued.
Police priorities in question
The news comes amidst strong public criticism that authorities have been failing to prioritize real crime prevention, instead pursuing a “woke” agenda.
Four in 10 Brits believe police are more interested in “wokeness” than catching criminals, according to a survey carried out by Public First.
In August, Birmingham overtook London as the “gun capital” of the U.K. West Midlands Police have recorded an 86 percent rise in gun crime since last year.
Local charities have flagged major concerns over a potential spike in crime since the Birmingham City Council declared itself bankrupt in September, ceasing all non-essential spending. The Council would have to fund the prosecution of silently praying Christians, should it choose to take the individuals to court for their “thoughtcrimes.”
Reprinted with permission from Alliance Defending Freedom.