The decade's most triggering comedy
A former British Army reservist who faces criminal charges next week for silently praying near an abortion clinic in the U.K. last year warned his fellow countrymen that the fundamental freedoms he fought to protect are in danger.
“You might think this is a story from Orwell’s 1984 – but in fact this is happening in England in 2023,” Adam Smith-Connor said in a November 9 news release. “‘Thoughtcrimes’ shouldn’t be prosecuted in the UK.”
Smith-Connor, a father who spent 20 years in the British military and served in Afghanistan, said local council officers approached him when he silently prayed outside the BPAS abortion clinic in Bournemouth, England, in November 2022.
Bodycam footage shows Smith-Connor, 50, interacting with authorities who questioned “the nature of his prayer.”
He told the officers he was praying for the men and women who were considering abortion after going through his own experience more than two decades ago when he arranged and paid for his girlfriend to abort their son.
But authorities told him he violated a local “buffer zone” ordinance known as a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which Smith-Connor’s attorneys said forbids “‘expression of approval or disapproval’ of abortion, including through prayer.”
A Council spokesperson told the Daily Mail that Smith-Connor was charged with breaching a term of prohibition 4g of the PSPO on August 9.
“The allegations are that on 24th November 2022 Mr Smith-Connor failed without reasonable excuse to comply with a requirement of the Public Spaces Protection Order (OPHIR ROAD AND SURROUNDING AREA) 2022, in that he failed to leave the required area when asked by an Authorised Officer,” a statement read.
“Due to the ongoing legal proceedings, the Council is unable to make a further statement in relation to this matter,” the statement added.
Smith-Connor’s legal defense said authorities issued a notice of penalty fine for only praying silently in his mind for a few minutes while his back was turned away from the clinic.
The notice said he was being charged for “praying for his deceased son,” according to the legal counsel.
Smith-Connor pleaded not guilty during an August hearing at Poole Magistrates’ Court.
“Britain has a history of upholding human rights we can be proud of, and a respect for freedom that I fought to uphold when I served this country for twenty years in the army reserves, including in Afghanistan,” Smith-Connor said. “I fought to defend our freedoms – but now my own freedom of thought is in jeopardy.”
“How can we send our troops out to potentially make the ultimate sacrifice when back home, police are arresting people for peacefully practicing their faith and offering charitable support to families in crisis?” he added.
Smith-Connor’s warning about the so-called Orwellian tactics arising in the United Kingdom comes days before the nation celebrates its Remembrance Sunday, where citizens honor the deceased veterans who fought to uphold their freedoms.
“Sadly, today, we are in danger of dismantling the values for which they died,” Smith-Connor said.
Smith-Connor is set to face a November 16 trial.
Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, the organization supporting Smith-Connor’s legal defense, said the validity of the charges raises significant questions about democratic accountability, considering the council both drafted PSPO and put themselves in the position of prosecuting those who violate the order.
“If Adam had been thinking about an issue other than abortion – for example, climate change – then there would be no issue raised here,” Igunnubole said.
Igunnubole said his client is one of several individuals who face penalties for “thoughtcrimes” in the U.K.
Last year, authorities arrested Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, a 45-year-old charity volunteer, for allegedly breaking a temporary PSPO on four separate occasions after praying outside a BPAS abortion clinic in Kings Norton, Birmingham, last December.
The arrest follows two other incidents within the last two years where local police told a praying woman in Southern England to leave for standing outside the local censorship zone, and a grandmother from Liverpool who was arrested and fined for praying silently near an abortion facility on a walk during the COVID lockdown.