CV NEWS FEED // A local court in the United Kingdom filed criminal charges against an army veteran for praying outside an abortion facility.
Adam Smith-Connor was fined for praying silently in November 2022 in a so-called “buffer zone,” an area outside an abortion facility where abortion protests are banned. A recent law in England and Wales established buffer zones restricting pro-life speech within 500 feet of abortion facilities.
Smith-Connor is expected to plead “not guilty” during his first hearing on August 9 in the Poole Magistrates’ Court. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK is his legal counsel.
“Nobody should be prosecuted for silent prayer. 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. I served for 20 years in the army reserves, including a tour in Afghanistan, to protect the fundamental freedoms that this country is built upon. I continue that spirit of service as a healthcare professional and church volunteer. It troubles me greatly to see our freedoms eroded to the extent that thought crimes are now being prosecuted in the UK,” Smith-Connor said.
Smith-Connor was praying in particular for his son, whom he lost to abortion. Smith-Connor had paid for his ex-girlfriend’s abortion and came to regret it, according to ADF UK.
“It’s unthinkable that I was issued a penalty simply for praying for my son, Jacob, whom I lost to an abortion I paid for. The decision I made all those years ago now grieves me deeply,” said Smith-Connor.
His own sadness and regret inspired him to pray for others who are in similar difficult situations.
“I was praying also for those contemplating abortion, especially those in vulnerable situations who believe abortion is their “only choice”. It isn’t for the authorities to determine the contents of my thoughts on this matter, on a public street.”
The Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP) Council failed to notify Smith-Connor of the court summons until two months after they issued the charge, far later than the legal requirement. The council did not bring him in for questioning,
The charge came even though officers had told him previously, on video, that the spot where he prayed was legal.
Smith-Connor’s ADF UK legal counsel, Jeremiah Igunnubole, expressed concern for the right to freedom of thought.
“Censorship zones are inherently wrong and engender unhelpful legal confusion regarding the right to free thought,” said Igunnubole. “Both domestic and international law have long established freedom of thought as an absolute right that must not ever be interfered with by the state.”
Igunnubole also criticized the BCP Council for its legal monopoly on the buffer zones.
“In various other circumstances, the police and the courts have made it clear that silent prayer is not a criminal act. And yet, BCP Council has introduced a rights-restricting censorship zone, which they now argue extends to a ban on silent prayer. The zone was created by the Council, enforced by the Council and now also prosecuted by the Council. This is a remarkable consolidation of power, making the council the judge, jury, and executioner.”
“This case has no place in a country with a historical and proud commitment to the rule of law.”
This is the third case where citizens have been put on trial for silent prayer within the buffer zones. A Catholic priest, Father Sean Gough, and a charity volunteer, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, were found “not guilty” in March for their silent prayer.