Ireland and Scotland May Prohibit Prayer Outside Abortion Centers

Catholics in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have voiced their strong opposition to the proposed imposition of buffer zones that would criminalize pro-life activity. “Religious freedom is under serious threat”, a Catholic group warned.

The Catholic Parliamentary Office (COP), an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, has slammed Scotland’s proposed buffer zones law as “the most extreme of its kind in the world” which could ban “audible prayers and silent vigils”.

“The proposals are grossly disproportionate, unnecessary, intolerant, and attack civil liberties”, the CPO said, also pointing out that, “in England, Catholics have already been arrested for praying silently under of similar laws to those proposed in Scotland”.

Holyrood’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee is currently gathering views on Gillian McKay MSP’s Bill to impose buffer zones around abortion facilities in Scotland. The consultation can be found here.

SPUC, submitting its evidence to the consultationsaid that “using the law to punish people for holding wrong political or religious opinions should have no place in Scottish society.”

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Society has make a guide to help supporters respond to the consultation, which closes on December 20th.

Religious freedom under threat in Ireland

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland Eamon Martin, who is also President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, similarly criticized the buffer zones as a “disproportionate” proposal with “far-reaching implications for freedom in religion and speech”.

The Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services) (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2023 is due to be debated in Ireland’s Seanad today. If passed, the law would impose buffer zones similar to those already introduced in England.

Archbishop Martin, however, defended “the rights of those who wish to peacefully and prayerfully offer support and alternative options and save the lives of innocent unborn children… [It is] it is perfectly reasonable to want to reach out with compassion to help vulnerable women and to be free to protect the life and welfare of a mother and her unborn child.”

His Grace also warned that the buffer zones, if passed, would set a terrible precedent that could one day lead to pro-life opinion being “excluded from public discourse, censored from the columns of the press, closed off from debates, or maintained by ‘safe access. zones’!”

The government has launched a consultation on guidance on buffer zones in England

This week, the Government published draft guidance for buffer zones in England which will be subject to a consultation, which ends on 22 January 2024. The SPUC will soon provide supporting guidance for supporters on how to respond.

Several pro-life individuals have already been arrested for praying silently outside abortion facilities in England, including Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested twiceand Adam Smith-Connor, an Afghanistan veteran, who to this day awaiting trial for praying for his dead son within the buffer zone in Bournemouth.

Smith-Connor, speaking later, said: “I’m standing here before you on the steps of Poole Magistrates Court being prosecuted – for a thoughtcrime… I didn’t approach anybody, I didn’t talk to anybody, no I violated anyone’s privacy. I just stood quietly. I am tested for the prayers that I think in my mind.”

We must all come together to reject buffer zones

The SPUC’s Michael Robinson, Executive Director (Public Affairs and Legal Services), said: “Opening the door to the criminalization of prayer would be an appalling intrusion on freedom of religion and thought in the UK, and should be completely that the Government make it clear that this will not happen. .

“Freedom of religion is fundamental to our society and regardless of whether you support the draconian plans to introduce buffer zones adjacent to abortion clinics or not, and the effort to criminalize prayer and thought is would be a scary step.

“As free speech and freedom of religion come under increasing threat from abortion ideologues, not only in the UK but also in the Republic of Ireland, Catholics and other pro-lifers must come together full voice to reject such illiberal and dangerous legislation.

LifeNews notes: Courtesy of SPUC. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organization in the United Kingdom.

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