“It would never happen here.” This is a common sentiment when discussing the feared crackdown on free speech and religion, with some arguing that it is done only to allay fear by sounding the alarm.
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The logic is this: free speech and religion are protected grounds and won’t go anywhere, even if loyalists warn. For a long time, such warnings about cultural change, cancel culture and related topics have been flatly dismissed as acts of sentimentality.
Yet recent events and incidents have called these dismissals into question, with critics comparing the arrests, detentions and punishments over religious expression to “1984” – a dystopian nightmare in which people are allowed only cultural forms of religion. It is permissible to speak and act according to the whims of the day.
In fact, the ground reality seems to be telling a disturbing tale.
Religious Freedom Under Attack
In America, high school football coach Joe Kennedy spent years fighting back after losing his job for praying on the 50-yard line after games.
He was eventually acquitted after his case reached the US Supreme Court, and the justices ruled 6-3 in his favor. However, it took years for those fundamental rights to go all the way up to the Supreme Court of the country to strengthen them.
In the UK, the situation appears even more dire, with Isabelle von-Sprouse, a pro-life volunteer and co-director of March for Life UK, allegedly for the “crime” of praying silently in her head a second time. is being arrested. Censored area of an abortion facility.
These “buffer zones” are clearly places where even silent requests to the Lord are denied. Thus, Vaughn-Sprouse was reportedly detained on Monday outside the BPAS Robert clinic in Birmingham.
The police falsely claimed that the PSPO “buffer zone” prohibited Isabel from standing near a clinic.
This is simply not true. A court ruled only weeks earlier that Isabel had not broken any law by thinking a prayer in her mind.
How can MPs implement this law with so little clarity? pic.twitter.com/whcuDtKvz5
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
Von-Sprouse’s story is particularly troubling, as a UK court recently charged her with breaching a local Public Places Protection Order (PSPO) last December for a previous arrest over the same issue.
CBN News provides a recap of the most recent video showing the events leading up to his second arrest:
In the 46-second video, Von-Sprouse is shown standing with her back to a hedge and her hands in her coat pockets.
Then several police officers approach him. An officer asked him, “May I ask you to move away from here and step outside the exclusion zone?”
Von-Sprouse replied, “But I’m not protesting. I’m not involved in any prohibited activity.”
“But you said you were praying, which is a crime,” replied the officer.
“Silent Prayer,” Vaughn-Sprouse Counter.
“No, but you were still engaged in prayer. It is a crime,” the officer explained.
Von-Sprouse told the officer she disagreed.
“Good then. So instead of standing outside the exclusion zone, you would like to be arrested. Is that what you’re saying?” the officer asked him.
BREAKING: Isabel has been arrested for recidivism.
Lawmakers to vote tomorrow to ban silent prayer near all abortion facilities
“You have said that you engage in prayer, which is a crime.”
“You were still engaged in prayer, which is a crime.” pic.twitter.com/AId3OguiXz
— ADF UK (@ADF_UK) March 6, 2023
It’s understandable why some might be confused about the Von-Sprouse’s actual crime. If she was not protesting vocally, making noise, or causing any problems, why would she be detained?
The officer repeatedly stated that his crime was “silent prayer”, but on what basis?
Understanding Public Orders Prohibiting Silent Prayer
Vaughan-Sprouse is reportedly not the only one facing such problems, as others have also been caught in the crosshairs for praying silently outside abortion clinics across the UK.
Public Places Protection Orders (PSPOs) are at the heart of these restrictions. These are rules and regulations managed by local communities. These local authorities were given the power to enforce such rules in section 59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
PSPOs aim to put an end to “public nuisances or problems”. According to Hambleton District Council, any breach of local regulations under the guidance of the PSPO is considered a criminal act.
The council noted, “The purpose of an order is to ensure that people who are able to use and enjoy public places are protected from anti-social behaviour.” “An order shall specify the area where activities are taking place that are detrimental to the quality of life of occupants of the area and may impose conditions and restrictions on people using the specified area.”
These PSPOs have been used to create local buffers and safe zones controlling protests and activities around abortion clinics, and according to Christianity Today, some of these places list prayer as one of the prohibited activities. has been included.
Adam Smith-Connor is yet another man who got himself a fine after praying outside a clinic in Bournemouth, England, last January.
After telling officers he had been praying over the events surrounding his deceased son – who had had an abortion decades earlier – Smith-Conner was told he had breached the local PSPO.
In a statement released after the incident by ADF UK, he said, “I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record just to pray silently.” “In the past, I assisted in hospital abortions as part of my Army medical training, but now I pray for abortionists because I realize how damaging abortion is to women and families, and that Every single human life is valuable – no matter how short.
“Above all, I am moved to pray for what happened to my son Jacob,” he said.
Smith-Connor is one of the individuals affected by these rules. As noted by Christianity Today, critics worry that it represents “a new frontier in the assault on religious liberty”.
These PSPOs are already in effect in cities such as Birmingham, Bournemouth, Manchester, Richmond and Ealing, and similar rules could reach Northern Ireland and Scotland.
A national move in Britain
The existence of these zones in specific cities is a reality, although this is a completely different dynamic considering the regulations unfolding more broadly in England and Wales.
And yet, this is exactly what is happening in the UK, with nationalized buffer zones around abortion clinics likely to soon become a reality – and with Parliament so far rejecting prayers and silent calls for exemptions from the list of offences. Have given.
The public order bill, which has passed all parliamentary hurdles, creates a roughly 492-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics across the country and what critics are calling a “thoughtcrime,” the Daily Mail reports.
According to ADF UK, Clause 10 of the Public Order Bill would criminalize any form of “influencing” outside abortion facilities, including prayer, peaceful conversation or offers to help women with services available, which want the option of abortion. ,
These provisions naturally raise fears about the erosion of religious freedom and expression.
Conservative Member of Parliament Andrew Laver told the House of Commons, “This section of the Public Order Bill is taking us into the territory of thought-crimes and constitutes an unprecedented interference with the rights to freedom of speech and expression in the UK.”
An amendment to the public order bill proposed by Laver would have allowed people to “engage in consensual communication or silent prayer” outside abortion clinics, but the measure was rejected on Tuesday.
With buffer zones now officially added to the Public Order Bill, it is unclear what will happen in cases where people still choose to pray in front of clinics.
The lack of clarity and recent arrests have raised concerns, with ADF UK legal advisor Jeremiah Igunnubole warning that other issues may soon face similar sanctions and investigations.
“Parliament had the opportunity to reject the criminalization of free thought, which is an absolute right, and embrace individual liberty for all,” he said in a statement. “Instead, Parliament chose to endorse censorship and criminalize peaceful activities such as silent prayer and conversant conversation.”
Igunnubole said, “Today, it is abortion. Tomorrow, it could be another controversial matter of political debate. The principle remains that the government should never be able to punish anyone for praying, silent prayer And leave alone a peaceful and consensual conversation.
While the current amendment calls for fines and not jail terms, such punishments are reportedly unlimited. CBN News and Faithwire will continue to cover this story as it develops.
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