Reprieve for Prayer

News: World News
by Samuel McCarthy  •  •  February 17, 2023   

Charges against UK pro-lifers dismissed

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BIRMINGHAM, England ( - A judge has dismissed criminal charges against a Catholic priest who is the codirector of March for Life UK.


Fr. Sean Gough and Isabel Vaughan-Spruce

(Photo: OSV News photo/Simon Caldwell)

Catholics Isabel Vaughan-Spruce and Fr. Sean Gough were both criminally charged for violating a so-called exclusion zone around a Birmingham abortion mill. Vaughan-Spruce was arrested after admitting she was praying silently in her head, and Gough was charged for holding a sign that read "praying for free speech." Although prosecutors dropped the charges, both Vaughan-Spruce and Gough sought a court ruling on whether they had committed any crimes.

On Thursday, prosecutors offered no evidence against the pro-life pair, and District Judge David Wain responded, "Because the prosecution decided to offer no evidence, the matter is brought to an end. That brings proceedings to an end."

Thought Crimes

In early December, police searched and arrested Vaughan-Spruce for standing silently outside the BPAS Robert Clinic, an abortion mill in Kings Norton, Birmingham. Police approached her and asked if she was praying; she said she "might" be, silently, in her head. After that, she was arrested and charged.

In response to today's ruling, the pro-life advocate said, "I'm glad I've been completely vindicated of any wrongdoing but I should never have been arrested and treated like a criminal simply for silently praying on a public street."

She listed friends who regretted their abortions, explaining that "the true crime" is "women being sold the lie that abortion will solve their difficulties in pregnancy." She criticized the government for marginalizing and now criminalizing pro-life advocacy, adding:

What is profoundly anti-social is that it is still legal to deprive certain human beings of their most basic freedom, the freedom to live and that steps are now being taken to censor freedom of speech, freedom to offer help, freedom to pray and even freedom to think. We must stand firm against this and ensure that these most fundamental freedoms are protected and that all our laws reflect this. ... Those who hold positions of elected power in Westminster should look carefully at what happened to me before passing Clause 9 of the Public Order Bill, which would impose censorship zones around abortion facilities across England and Wales. Nobody should be criminalised for offering help. Nobody should be criminalised for their prayers. Nobody should be criminalised for their thoughts.

Gough was also charged for silently praying outside the same abortuary. The priest held a sign that read "praying for free speech" and stood outside the abortion mill while it was closed. He was charged with intimidating women seeking to kill their unborn children. The only explicitly pro-life connection police could make was a bumper sticker on Gough's car which said "unborn lives matter." After today's verdict, Gough said:

It's wrong for the authorities to censor parts of the street from prayer, even silent prayer, from peacefully having conversations and sharing information that could be of great help to women who want an alternative choice to abortion. I pray every day, everywhere I go, and prayer can never be a crime. ... Whatever your views are on abortion, we should all be able to agree that in a democratic country we should not be in the business of prosecuting thought crimes.

Conservative Cowards

The buffer zone legislation that resulted in the arrests of both Vaughan-Spruce and Gough was passed in parliament with support from the so-called Conservative Party.

Once the home of traditional social values, the Conservative Party has proven itself to be, in the words of Brexiteer Nigel Farage, "Labour lite." In October, a majority of Conservative MPs voted with the left-wing Labour Party to ban prayer, protest and pro-life counsel outside abortion mills. In the House of Lords last month, it was Conservative Party peers who led the charge to enforce these so-called exclusion zones. In fact, the House of Lords even voted against a Home Office review of evidence to determine whether pro-life prayer and counsel constituted harassment or not.

The Conservative Party's secretary for Northern Ireland also bypassed the Northern Irish government to expand abortion access, after the Conservative parliament in Westminster capitalized on a political stall in Northern Ireland to legalize abortion there.

The Conservative Party's concessions to leftist ideology, wokeism and the Culture of Death are numerous. Although today's court ruling is a small victory for British pro-lifers, the fact remains that the court's decision was made based on a lack of evidence.

News Report: Northern Ireland Legalizes Abortion

Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom UK, who worked hard to defend both Vaughan-Spruce and Gough, noted today:

[O]ur parliament is considering rolling out censorial legislation, which could lead to more situations where people's thoughts are on trial. Their case may have closed today, but it should be marked in this conversation as a cautionary tale. In the UK, freedom of thought, prayer, offers of help, and peaceful conversation are not illegal and we call on Parliament to reject the creation of more censorship zones through vaguely worded public order legislation.

As long as so-called conservatives continue caving to the Left, Catholic principles like pro-life witness and even silent prayer will be ever more marginalized and criminalized.

The House of Commons is set to vote soon on amendments to the exclusion zone bill, with MPs permitted to vote according to conscience and not according to party lines.

--- Campaign 31877 ---


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