When THINKING a Prayer Became a Crime by Dr Michael Brown for Ask Dr Brown
At first, it seemed too absurd to believe.
Surely, there must be more to the story than meets the eye.
It turns out that what was reported was quite accurate: a Christian pro-life leader in England was arrested not simply for standing in front an abortion clinic. She was also arrested for the crime of praying while standing there, even though she was simply praying in her own head.
Talk about being prosecuted for a “thought crime.”
This really and truly happened.
In the words of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, leader of the UK March for Life,
“It’s abhorrently wrong that I was searched, arrested, interrogated by police and charged simply for praying in the privacy of my own mind. Nobody should be criminalized for thinking and for praying, in a public space in the UK.”
A pastoral colleague had sent me the report which stated,
“In yet another assault on Christianity in Britain, a pro-life activist was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham, England.”
Embedded in the article was a link to the Twitter account of Mary Margaret Olohan, which contained a video of the arrest.
In the video, the police officer asks Vaughan-Spruce politely, “Are you praying?” She responds, “I might be praying in my head.” (Do I need to add my standard caveat, “I’m not making this up!”?)
At present, however, there is an additional note added by Twitter which states,
“The woman in the video, Isabel Vaughan Spruce, was not arrested for silently praying. She was arrested for breaking a temporary Public Space Protection Order on four separate occasions which was used to ban protests outside of an abortion clinic due to safety concerns.” (The note is linked to this story).
That’s what I had been wondering about when I read the initial piece and watched the video. Perhaps she was not allowed to be standing in front of the clinic at all? Perhaps that was her crime?
Despite the outrageousness of such a regulation, since it appears clear that she was not harassing anyone nor was her presence a threat to anyone, what if her presence was the issue, not her praying? Wouldn’t that mean that the attention-getting headlines were not accurate? Wouldn’t that mean that the very headline to this article was misleading?
It turns out that there are, in fact, Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) zones which protect abortion clinics and other places. And Vaughan-Spruce was prohibited from standing in this particular zone, no matter how peaceful and gracious her presence might be.