A U.K. man criminally charged after praying silently outside an abortion clinic in Bournemouth, England, is speaking up about his case, sharing with CBN’s Faithwire the details of what unfolded.
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Adam Smith-Connor said he was outside the clinic last November for just two or three minutes before community police support officers approached him and started asking questions.
“[They] asked me what I was doing, and I said I was praying for my deceased son,” Smith-Connor explained. “The female officer asked me, ‘What is the nature of your prayer?’ I was a bit taken aback by that, and I said I was praying for my deceased son.”
At that point, he said the officers told him he was breaching the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) order — a buffer zone precluding protests and apparently internal prayers outside abortion clinics. The “silent prayer in his mind” was seen as a protest against abortion, and he was fined and told to leave.
Lois McLatchie Miller, spokesperson for ADF UK, the legal firm handling Smith-Connor’s case, said people hearing his claim might think they’re “listening to an extract from an Orwellian novel like ‘1984.’”
“But … this is real. It’s in 2023, and police did come over to check Adam’s thinking and even ended up prosecuting,” she said.
As for Smith-Connor, he warned others about the dangers of prosecuting people for thought crimes.
“It’s just outrageous,” he said. “It is un-British, frankly. “It’s just wrong.”
Watch Smith-Connor react to his legal battle:
Smith-Connor cited his past military experience to express his dismay over the entire ordeal and the dangers in which it puts precious freedoms enjoyed in the U.K.
“I love my country. I served the country for 20 years,” he said. “I’m an Afghanistan veteran, and I was prepared to put my life my life on the line for this nation, because I believe in our values. I believe in the value of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to gather.”
Smith-Connor said the handling of his case is an “offense” to the nation and its history and toward those who have sacrificed their lives to defend its values.
“They think they have the right to trample over the memory of friends of mine now who passed away defending this nation’s freedoms,” he said. “It’s an insult, frankly, to our nation, and for that reason, I refuse to pay the fine, and I now find myself being prosecuted.”
As CBN’s Faithwire previously reported, Smith-Connor pleaded not guilty earlier this month after being charged for not paying the fine over his silent prayer.
Months after the initial financial penalty of 100 pounds, the equivalent of $123.65, the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, which presides over the local buffer zone he’s accused of violating, filed criminal charges — a surprise to some, as he was expected not to be charged with a crime.
Smith-Connor, who isn’t backing down, pledged to take his challenge to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary. Watch the video of his November 2022 interaction with officers:
“We just wanted to come over to say hello in the first instance and to inquire as to your activities today,” an officer said, to which Smith-Connor replied, “Well, I’m praying.”
That’s when the officer said he was in an area protected under the PSPO — a buffer zone where protest and now silent prayer are purportedly precluded.
“What is the nature of your prayer today?” a female officer asked, to which Smith-Connor said he was praying for his deceased son, who died years ago in an abortion. This reportedly violated the law.
CBN News has covered the debate over the U.K.’s nationalized abortion “buffer zone” rules, under which no one is allowed to protest for 150 meters (over 490 feet) “from any direction” of the clinic.
The Public Order Bill crossed all parliamentary hurdles earlier this year, creating the massive buffer zone around abortion clinics. The bill criminalizes “influencing” outside abortion facilities, which includes prayer, peaceful conversations, or offers to help women with services available to those who would like an alternative to abortion.
Smith-Connor’s case follows another highly publicized situation surrounding Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a pro-life volunteer and co-director of March for Life U.K. who has been arrested twice for silent prayer outside of an abortion clinic. Read more about both cases here.
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