A new law passed by Britain’s House of Commons has been labelled the first “thoughtcrime” law.
Although the March 7 legislation, which creates buffer zones around abortion facilities, mirrors that of other countries, the MPs rejected provisions that would have excluded private prayer or consensual communication from the list of banned activities.
So, as it stands, silently praying outside an abortion clinic in the UK will be punishable with a fine.
I was clearly just standing there motionless. I was completely silent. I let the police officers know that I might be praying inside my own head ...
Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian Paisley Jr likened the law to the edict by King Darius in the Old Testament book of Daniel, which saw Daniel arrested for private prayer.
“The tragedy of the account of Daniel’s descent into the lions’ den is that it takes place at the hands of the weak King Darius,” Mr Paisley said. “He recognises the intolerance thrust on him by his courtiers, and yet is seemingly unable to resist the exploitation of his own laws.
“In passing this law, this government has failed to stand up for freedom and genuine tolerance. Instead, it has shown similar weakness, wringing its hands and allowing censorship to pass onto the statute book.”
Pro-life campaigner Isabel Vaughan-Spruce has twice been arrested for silent prayer outside clinics. The Crown abandoned the first prosecution after her arrest in December but she was arrested again in March, just before the new laws were enacted.
Above: Police arrest Mrs Mrs Vaughan-Spruce (Photo:Twitter ADF.UK)
The faith-based legal advocacy organisation ADF UK has taken up her case and questions have been raised in Parliament about the application of the laws.
“I'm still trying to get my mind around the fact that I've been arrested for silent thoughts going on in the privacy of my own head,” Mrs Vaughan-Spruce said in a video made by ADF UK. “My faith is a central part of who I am, so sometimes I'd stand or walk near an abortion facility and pray about this issue. Police asked me what I was doing one afternoon near the abortion centre. I was clearly just standing there motionless. I was completely silent. I let the police officers know that I might be praying inside my own head. That's all I was doing, thinking, lifting up my thoughts to God in silent prayer.
“This was enough for them to arrest me and take me to the station. Before doing this, they searched me on the pavement, even searching through my hair and confiscating the tissues in my pockets.”
The court sequel is yet to take place, but Mrs Vaughan-Spruce said police grilled her about what she was thinking, adding: “Later, they let me know that I've now been charged on four counts because of the thoughts I've been thinking and where I was thinking them.
“You don't have to be pro-life to see that this is wrong. Freedom of thought, conscience and belief are the most fundamental rights and are an essential part of our human identity.”