From the SFLA Blog

Three Strikes & Free Speech is Out: British Veteran Third to Be Arrested in UK for Silent Prayer Outside Abortion Facility

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Caroline Wharton - 08 Aug 2023

What does a pro-life leader, priest, and military veteran share in common? In England, all three have been recently arrested for the same “crime” of silently praying in front of an abortion facility. As threats to American free speech — particularly pro-life speech — are often taken too lightly, could this be where the United States is heading, as well? Here’s what you need to know about this story: 

Formerly serving in the United Kingdom’s military for 20 years, veteran Adam Smith-Connor said his service was to “protect the fundamental freedoms” England was built upon — the very freedoms that he found violated earlier this year after praying in front of an abortion facility. As a post-abortive father who regrets financially covering an abortion, Smith-Connor finds himself praying sometimes outside abortion facilities for his lost child and others in unplanned pregnancies. But although he asserts that his silent praying is “indistinguishable from someone looking down at their cell phone or waiting for a taxi,” Smith-Connor has been criminally charged for it. 

Adam Smith-Connor, courtesy of ADF UK

Authorities in Bournemouth, England issued him a penalty notice, carrying high fines, for “praying for his deceased son,” and Smith-Connor says he cannot believe he’s being punished for a “thought crime.” His hearing date has been set for August 9, 2023. 

He stated, “It is unfathomable that in an apparently free society, I am being criminally charged on the basis of what I expressed silently, in the privacy of my own mind…It troubles me greatly to see our freedoms eroded to the extent that thought crimes are now being prosecuted in the U.K.” 

Unfortunately, Smith-Connor is the third in a string of these cases. Father Sean Gough, a Catholic priest from the diocese of Birmingham, England, faced such charges earlier this spring (despite the fact that praying is actually a part of his job description). In December 2022, the Director of the UK March for Life Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was also arrested in Birmingham under suspicion of praying. Both have subsequently been found not guilty — so why hasn’t England learned its lesson yet? And will the United States before it is too late? 

Warner DePriest arrested after peacefully chalking on the sidewalk in D.C.

When not being bemoaning First Amendment rights, our mainstream media largely ignores free speech violation stories, allowing the public to underestimate the state our country is in. Students for Life of America (SFLA), however, sees these infringements daily through our student groups. In the 2022 – 2023 school year, nearly 10% of all SFLA groups reported First Amendment violations, which tripled from the year prior. In addition, SFLA staffer Warner DePriest who was arrested in Washington D.C. in 2020 for chalking pro-life sentiments still has yet to have his case resolved; click HERE for the latest update.  

We clearly have a free speech issue already in the United States, but if it doesn’t get taken seriously, we might become like those across the pond and have thought crimes on top of it — so let us help you. If you, your student group, or faculty advisor is experiencing First Amendment violations, reach out to [email protected] for free, confidential legal aid. 

In a world where some cannot even have pro-life thoughts, it’s important to protect your pro-life voice. 

READ NEXT: Take It From a Mom: It’s Breastfeeding, NOT “Chestfeeding”

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