In an Illiberal Society, Silence is a Crime
If thoughts can be persecuted and silence cannot protect you, why not speak up and take a stand?
U.K. police recently arrested a woman for engaging in silent prayers outside an abortion clinic. Apparently, silence can be a crime if the state deems you have “wrong” thoughts in the “wrong” place.
The woman the U.K. police arrested was Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of a pro-life group March for Life U.K. According to the U.K.’s Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO), areas within 150 meters (492 feet) of an abortion clinic are buffer or censorship zones. “Anyone found guilty of breaching the zone to intimidate, threaten or persuade women will face a fine or six months’ imprisonment, increasing to two years for repeat offenses.”
Ms. Vaughan-Spruce had been arrested before for praying silently outside an abortion provider, the BPAS Robert Clinic, in Kings Norton, on December 6, 2022. She was recently acquitted after the Birmingham Magistrates Court found her not guilty. Probably encouraged by the ruling, she stood outside the same clinic last week and offered a silent prayer. Even though she was neither protesting nor harassing anyone, and God was the only one who could hear her prayers, she was hauled away by six police officers. They insisted that praying inside a buffer zone, silent or not, is an offense.
Ms. Vaughan-Spruce was released on bail but reportedly had to agree to “bail conditions prohibiting her from going near the abortion facility.” Through a statement, she pointed out, “The ambiguity of laws that limit free expression and thought - even in peaceful, consensual conversation or in silent, internal prayer - leads to abject confusion, to the detriment of important fundamental rights. Nobody should be criminalized for their thoughts.”
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