We don’t need a law against silent prayer

Mar 9, 2023 by

by Baroness O’Loan, TCW:

WE ARE all familiar with certain laws in force in the UK which are so absurd we assume someone must be sharing a bad joke.

The Licensing Act 1872 prohibits people from being drunk in a pub. Thankfully, the Nuclear Explosions (Prohibition and Inspections) Act 1998 forbids the detonation of nuclear weapons outside an armed conflict. The keeping of pigs in plain sight in one’s front garden is banned by the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. Most challenging for the police, it remains illegal to suspiciously handle a salmon.

To that wryly amusing list we may have to soon add the shameful example of the Public Order Bill, which is on track to risk banning both silently praying in the street and the offering of help to people who are receptive to such offers in a given circumstance.

I am referring to Clause 10 of the Bill as it stands. This Clause, unless amended, would introduce exclusionary zones of 150 metres around all abortion clinics in England and Wales where people would not be able to offer help to a woman who was reluctantly – or by coercion – going to have an abortion. The irony of the term ‘pro-choice’ here is lost on none.

Supporters of this law change argue that ‘buffer zones’ are needed because protesters gather and intimidate women. A Home Office Review published in 2018 found otherwise, concluding that ‘anti-abortion activities are more passive in nature. The main activities reported to us that take place during protests include praying, displaying banners and handing out leaflets’.

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