WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – Several members of Congress accused the United Kingdom of “harassment” against Christians after the second arrest of a pro-life leader for praying near an abortion mill.
In a letter by Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy to Rashad Hussain, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, the Congressmen stated that “The U.K. is now on an unsettling path that could potentially result in existential threats to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of thought.”
Cosigners of Roy’s letter, all Republicans, include Reps. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Mary Miller of Illinois, Randy Weber of Texas, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andy Ogles of Tennessee and Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.
According to Roy, at least five British municipalities have adopted Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO), which allow for “buffer zones” around abortion mills. Provisions of PSPOs include prohibitions on prayer, the distributing information about pregnancy help services, and other activities considered to constitute “protest.”
“Enforcement of these laws creates a deeply concerning pattern of legal and state-sanctioned harassment of Christians and other pro-life Brits for not only voicing support for the sanctity of life and for offering resources for women considering abortion, but also for exercising their fundamental right to free speech, religious freedom, and freedom of thought,” the letter stated.
“Even more disturbing, Parliament is considering legislation that would implement these antireligious-freedom censorship zones around abortion facilities across all of England and Wales, and recently rejected amendments to this legislation that would have clarified that silent prayer and consensual conversations cannot be construed as crimes,” the letter continued.
“Arresting individuals for silent prayer is a gross, aggressive, and needlessly escalatory assault on one’s fundamental freedoms.”
The letter also alludes to the recent arrest of two pro-lifers in the U.K. for praying near abortion mills.
One, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, was arrested while silently praying near an abortion mill in December. While Vaughan-Spruce was acquitted of violating the “buffer zone” around an abortion mill last month, she was arrested again early this month for silently praying in a “buffer zone” in Birmingham.
Also acquitted with Vaughan-Spruce was Father Sean Gough, a Catholic priest who prayed near an abortion mill, also in Birmingham, for freedom of speech and religion rights after Vaughan-Spruce’s initial arrest. In addition to praying, Gough held a sign that read “praying for freedom of speech,” and faced an additional charge for having an “unborn lives matter” bumper sticker on his car.
While charges against both Vaughan-Spruce and Gough were initially dropped for lack of evidence, prosecutors stated that they could have been reinstated if more evidence was found, leading to the pair to seek a formal acquittal.
Roy also mentioned an instance wherein British army veteran Adam Smith-Connor was fined for praying for his unborn son, a victim of abortion, near an abortion mill.
Appealing to the relationship between the two countries, Roy wrote, “As the United States and the United Kingdom share a special and uniquely close relationship, it is imperative that the U.S. speak boldly and clearly to its friend when the U.K. has failed to protect unalienable rights. A free people do not face legal persecution for exercising a natural right.”
“Ambassador, to fulfill America’s commitment to advancing religious freedom around the world, we believe it is crucial for you to speak out on this issue,” Roy concluded.
“Respectfully, we urge you to speak out against these specific incidents and pending legislation; to raise this issue with your counterparts in the U.K. regarding these creeping restrictions and the importance of free speech, religious freedom, and freedom of thought in a free society; and to articulate America’s interest in seeing the U.K. government affirm these freedoms for all its citizens, regardless of where they might be standing.”
The arrests of Vaughan-Spruce and Gough, as well as the fine of Smith-Connor, are not the only instances of apparent “harassment” of Christians in the island nation.
Last year, a British street preacher, Dave McConnell, was arrested after “misgendering” a gender confused man in public. McConnell was held by police for 14 hours after his arrest. After being found guilty of “harassment,” McConnell was sentenced to pay costs of £620 and perform 80 hours of community service. Further, his case was reportedly referred to Prevent, the British organization responsible for policing terrorist activity, by the Probation Service.
McConnell’s conviction was overturned last week.
Speaking to FOX, McConnell said, “I’m concerned that if things continue to go on as they are, as the culture changes, slowly the laws will get changed, which will hinder freedom of expression and give authorities more powers to shut people like me down and actually get convictions for preachers.”
“The world’s gone mad, the nation’s gone mad,” he added. “Most common, everyday people just think it’s crazy, but most people are frightened to speak up.”
In 2021, Rev. Dr. Bernard Randall, a Church of England chaplain at Trent College in Nottingham, was fired from his post and secretly referred to Prevent for giving a sermon decrying LGBT ideology among the student body of his college in 2019.
Having recently lost a lawsuit against his former employer for how he was treated after his sermon, he stated that the court’s ruling was a “blow for free speech and Christian freedoms.” Randall stated that he will appeal the ruling.
Roy’s letter is not his first attempt to defend religious freedom abroad.
In 2021, Roy and other congressional Republicans sent a letter to the chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asking her to consider suggesting Finland on the U.S. State Department’s Special Watch List for its prosecution of former Finnish M.P. Paivi Räsänen after she and Lutheran bishop Juhana Pohjola for defending traditional marriage.