By: JOSEPH MACKINNON | January 23, 2023
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A British Army veteran was confronted by police for standing silently near an abortion clinic in Bournemouth, England. The man’s apparent crime: He was silently praying for his murdered son.
Adam Smith-Connor of Southampton is the second Briton in recent months to have been arrested, not for speech or actions, but for silent prayer — for the thoughts in his head.
Smith-Connor told the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK, a faith-based freedom advocacy group, that “22 years ago, I drove an ex-girlfriend to a facility where I paid for her to have an abortion. Many years later, I came to realize what I had done and it has been a source of great grief to me in my life.”
“I now pray for my son and to God for forgiveness,” said Smith-Connor, adding, “I would never have imagined being in a position to risk a criminal record for praying silently.”
Smith-Connor approached a British Pregnancy Advisor Service abattoir in the English county of Dorset on Nov. 24 to pray “for my son Jacob, for other babies who have lost their lives to abortion, for their grieving families, and for abortion clinic staff.” The BPAS is the leading provider of abortions in the United Kingdom and boasts on its website that one in three U.K. women will “have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.”
The National Catholic Register reported that Smith-Connor was standing silently with his back to the facility to respect the privacy of staff and visitors, when a pair of officers confronted him, pressing him on what he was doing and why. Footage of the incident shows one of the officers ask, “What is the nature of your prayer today?”
Smith-Connor responds, “What is the nature of my prayer? I’m praying for my son.”
The female officer notes that that there is “a clause within the Public Space Protection Order around prayer and around disapproval around the activities at the clinic here.”
The Scotsman reported that in October, the abattoir in Bournemouth became the fifth in the country to get a PSPO. Accordingly, in the area around the facility, various activities such as protests are verboten. Those found in violation could incur a fine of £100 ($123.65 USD) or face a conviction at a magistrates court. Among the things that are forbidden in such a buffer zone are protests via “graphic, verbal or written means” and “holding vigils where members audible pray, recite Scripture, genuflect, sprinkle holy water on the ground or cross themselves if they perceive a service-user is passing by.”
Concerning the establishment of the no-free speech zone in Bournemouth, Councilor Bobbie Dove stated, “Whilst we acknowledge the right of anyone to conduct a peaceful protest, we had to balance this against the distress caused or likely to be caused, and the detrimental impact of behaviours experienced by those accessing medical services or doing their jobs.”
Having clarified that Smith-Connor was in the buffer zone, the female officer can be heard in the video attempting to establish whether Smith-Connor’s silent prayer may have had something to do with the abattoir.
In response to Smith-Connor’s admission that he is silently praying for his dead son, the officer says, “I’m sorry for your loss. But ultimately, I have to go along with the guidelines of the Public Space Protection Order, to say that we are in the belief that therefore you are in breach of clause 4a, which says about prayer, and also acts of disapproval around the activities at the clinic.”
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The ADF UK reported that Smith-Connor was ultimately fined on the basis of the PSPO. He is now challenging the resultant council fine, stating, “This cannot be right in a country that values freedom.”
“Freedom of thought has to be one of the most fundamental freedoms that any human being can have,” he said. “I spent 20 years in the military including spending time in Afghanistan defending the very principle of freedom.”
“I’m not a criminal,” Smith-Connor emphasized. “I am a husband. I am a father. I’m a military veteran and I’m a Christian. But I have been censored.”
TheBlaze previously reported that a woman was similarly arrested by police over her silent prayer on Dec. 6 in Birmingham, England. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was charged with breaching a PSPO.
“Nobody should be arrested for the thoughts they have in their own mind. The arrest and charge appears to be premised entirely on her admission that she was praying internally,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, Spruce’s legal representative, said in a statement. “The clinic was closed and she was standing, in a public space, without once engaging anyone. As a public space, she was not banned from being present there.”
Igunnubole noted that in Adam’s case, he “could now face prosecution for holding thoughts, and lifting those thoughts to God in prayer, within a censorship zone..”
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