On 7 March the House of Commons voted to comprehensively introduce buffer zones around abortion clinics to the Public Order Bill for the final time. The clause to the bill was approved by a majority of 299 MPs in favor to 116 against. Now that the Public Order Bill is set to become law, any form of "influence" around abortion clinics will be criminalised, including silent prayer or consensual conversations, de facto making "thought crime" a reality in the UK. Experts have commented that while harassment and intimidation are already illegal, this law would be a serious attack on freedom of speech and freedom of thought.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce had been arrested and charged with violating protest policy near an abortion center, as she was standing on the street and praying in her thoughts. UK authorities have now dropped the charges against her, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) warned that charges could start again in a near future. Vaughan-Spruce has said she wants to seek a clear verdict in court.
The NGO ADF UK posted a video of two community safety accredited officers in Bournemouth interrogating a veteran who was standing on the street alone, praying in his thoughts. The officers told Adam Smith-Connor that he was praying inside a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) space, for which he was fined. According to the PSPO, certain activities such as acts of "disapproval" towards the abortion facility in the area are prohibited. Adam is at least the second person who was fined for praying silently on the street. He told the officers he was praying for his deceased son, which they considered an "act of disapproval."
An unexpected shooting occurred in North London on January 14. at the St Aloysius Roman Catholic Church. The 22-year-old suspect drove and shot 6 people who were coming out of a memorial service inside the church. The victims were a 48-year-old who has severe life-threatening injuries; a 12, 21, 41, and 54-year-old. A 7-year-old girl was also injured and was in serious condition. The police department detained the suspect for questioning after his car was found parked on Sunday. It was also mentioned that the bullets came from a black Toyota C-HR.
At around 3.45 p.m. on the 29th of December, the St Peter’s Church door was busted open by teenagers. Once inside, they damaged a cross, a statue and candles. The suspects are four boys and four girls who were seen by residents running away from the church with dark clothes on and heading toward Claydon High School. The faces are yet to be identified but the police are asking for any cam footage from cars that were there parked near the scene.
ADF UK reported that a charity volunteer has been arrested and charged with four counts after telling the police that she “might” be praying silently in her mind, after being questioned by them over why she was standing inside an abortion facility’s censorship zone. The arrest and charges took place as authorities consider criminalising prayer near abortion facilities nationwide in the new Public Order Bill.
Between the 18th and 19th of December, an unknown perpetrator destroyed several windows of the St. John of Rochester Catholic church in Egham Hythe. The perpetrator smashed the windows by throwing flower pots through them. The shattered glass spread over the floor and the incident was discovered by a church volunteer, Anne-do Bauchot. She and other church members said they were "heartbroken" by seeing this attack. Also, because of this, the church was not able to hold their traditional Christmas Eve service.
Derek Timms, a chaplain from Solihull, was told in September at the Marie Curie charity’s Solihull branch, that he must not wear the cross as it might "offend’ and "create barriers" with patients. He was also told that he would face consequences if he did not remove the cross, which was a symbol of his faith but also a memory of his late wife. After receiving legal support, Mr Timms received an "unreserved" apology letter from the Marie Curie charity's regional head office.
In November 2022, policemen confronted a woman praying in a public space, on the edge of a "buffer zone" (a 150m neutral zone surrounding abortion clinics in British law). The case raises polemics about "buffer zones" in general.
A church in Llanllwchaiarn (near Newtown) is facing a "at least" £30,000 bill after unknown vandals smashed six glass-stained windows. The windows of the St. Llwchaiarn church were protected with a wire mesh, but the vandals were still able to break the glass, apparently with iron rods from an old grave. The incident took place between the 8th and 10th of November.
The Christian Institute has reported that parents of children at Hatcham College were denied access to see the Sex-Education lesson slides used by an external NGO. The parents requested access to the slides by the School of Sexuality Education (SoSE), but the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) denied their request, stating it would compromise the sex education provider’s “intellectual property”. This, nevertheless, undermines parental rights, as the parents are not able to raise concern over material being taught to their children that might go against their beliefs.
A buffer zone was implemented outside the BPAS clinic in Bournemouth in a bid to deter people from praying or standing with pro-life signs outside the clinic. Anyone that fails to accept the decision could incur a fixed penalty notice of £100 or face court action. Buffer zones have been widely discussed, due to their limitation of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
In May 2019, Dr. Richard Scott faced an investigation by the NHS England (National Health Service) after several complaints were made about him offering prayer to patients, as he discussed this practice during a BBC Radio 4 interview. Dr. Scott faced an investigation to see if he was fit for practice, but the case has now been settled between Dr. Scott and the NHS, as reported on the news at the beginning of October. He has agreed to attend a course about professional boundaries and at the same time, with no admittance of wrongdoing.
The UK's already controversial Public Order Bill has received an amendment proposal that would criminalize supporting women seeking an abortion within a 150-meter "buffer zone" from an abortion clinic. Apart from the fact that this would open the way for authorities to repress Christian street preachers, this amendment means that prayer or any kind of help inside the "buffer zones" could lead to an up to two-year jail sentence. Laws like this already exist in Northern Ireland since March, and will also be a reality in Scotland in the near future.
A new report was submitted to the Scottish Government on the 4th of October that could criminalize efforts by parents to mentor their children according to their beliefs, with the possibility of losing parental custody. Prayers and private conversations could also be criminalized. The report considers "conversion practices" as "any treatment, practice or effort that aims to change, suppress, and/or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, expression of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.".
On the 1st of October, unknown thieves targeted the St. Nicholas Church in Baddesley Ensor. They have stolen the historic stained glass windows that were at the side of the church. The Warwickshire Police are investigating the case. For now, the windows had to be boarded up.
Sometime between 25. September and 1st of October, a silver chalice worth thousands of pounds was stolen from a village church in Cambridgeshire. According to the sources, the chalice is believed to date back to the 16th century. It was kept in the All Saints and St Andrews Church, where thieves broke in and took the chalice from the safe. The police have been notified and are running investigations.
A Scottish politician, John Mason, has been disciplined by party leaders at Holyrood after he showed support for pro-life activism outside hospitals. He was sent a written warning and was accused of causing women “great distress” for his remarks on abortion and buffer zones outside clinics. The news was reported recently on the 15. September.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has pronounced in favor of the legislation meant to limit pro-life activity around abortion clinics, which could lead to the creation of abortion clinic "buffer zones" across Scotland. The First Minister suggested that pro-life groups could protest in front of the Scottish parliament instead of gathering outside abortion clinics. A legal counsel for ADF UK, Mr. Igunnubole, warns that such laws do not possess a "reasonable excuse" to ignore basic tenets of the rule of law, such as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.
In the city of Leeds, members of society raised concerns, claiming that street preachers in the city center are using hate speech and homophobic language. The local council, together with the Police have now issued a new "code of conduct", in which they tell preachers that they respect their freedom of expression, but also recognise that it may be limited to "prevent disorder or crime".
Rev Dr. Bernard Randall is a Christian chaplain who was reported to a terrorist watchdog by the school he worked at, after giving a sermon addressing the new LGBT Guidelines and telling his pupils it was ok to make up their own minds, as long as they remain respectful towards other's opinions. He is now facing a high-profile Employment Tribunal hearing and has even been blacklisted as a safeguarding risk to children by the Church of England (CofE). Dr. Randall says he was interrogated and told that refusing to capitulate to the allegation and denying his beliefs made him a risk. The diocese safeguarding team concluded ‘the Church itself is a risk factor.’
On 21. August, "Grimsby Live" reported that the Willows Community Church in Grimsby had been tagged with slogans about sex and drugs that affected the community. Organizers of the Church repainted the walls within hours after the desecration took place. And the news outlet chose not to publish the pictures of the vandalistic act, due to the nature of the slogans. The police was notified and they will run an investigation.
Residents of Worcester, England, are protesting against the gangs of young offenders who occupy the churchyard around St. John's Church and engage in various forms of depredation, graffiti, attempted arson, defacement, robbery, etc.
For the third time on the year, the village church of Saint Gregory the Great in Morville has been the target of theft and vandalism. This time, the thieves stole a plaque commemorating a war hero, Thomas Hoblyn-Robins (from WWI). This happened on the 9. of August. On the same day two brass candlesticks, one brass vase and two brass candleholders were stolen. The police are asking for witness information.
During an interview with the Christian Institute, Dr. James Holt, Chair of the Freedom Declared Foundation, said that there is a lack of religious literacy among some elected officials in the UK. He noted that at the recent International Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief in London, the issue seemed to be addressed mainly as a foreign policy issue and not a domestic concern. He considers that "much more needs to be done" to counter anti-religious hatred in the UK and secure religious freedom.
Rosa Lalor, who on the 24th of February of 2021 was fined for praying silently on the public street, and later decided to challenge the sanction, won her appeal. At the time, the police considered that she did not have a "reasonable excuse" to be outside, even though she explained that she was simply "walking and praying" and that daily exercise was allowed. She received a fine of £200 and was then detained in the police car. Rosa Lalor decided to challenge the fine, with the help of ADF UK and won the case in court.
A Christian mayoral candidate for Lewisham, Maureen Martin, has launched legal action after being sacked for her statement on Christian beliefs about marriage in her election manifesto. She was dismissed by her housing association employer L&Q for "gross misconduct" following three complaints of "hate speech" against her, as she expressed her belief that a marriage between a man and a woman was a "fundamental building block in society" and the "safest environment to raise a child".
Pitsmore Christ Church in Burngreave, a district of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, is no longer able to hold services after being damaged in a fire on the night of 3 to 4 July. The authorities and the parish consider the fire to be arson. An investigation has been launched.
The abortion clinic in Bournemouth has been calling for a buffer zone around the facility, due to the daily vigils outside the clinic that have been taking place over the years, in order to prevent pro-life protesters from approaching the women going to the clinic, as well as the staff that works there. Rachel Clarke, from the mentioned clinic, said "[Bournemouth] is one of the worst-hit clinics in the country". A buffer zone could undermine the freedom of assembly and freedom of speech of pro-life activists.
The evangelical Christian preacher and member of the Free Speech Union, Hatun Tash, was arrested on the 26th of June, at Speakers’ Corner. It was her third arrest in two years. Apparently, she was dragged by a group of police officers, who took her to the police station, "strip-searched, interviewed, kept overnight in a cell and then released without charge". She was released the next day, interestingly, on the 150th anniversary of Speakers’ Corner.
An arson attack took place at the St. Mary's Church in Riccall on Friday 24. June. A wooden cross that was attached to the front entrance of the church was set on fire and destroyed. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, as the religious symbol was directly targeted.
The wooden eagle lectern was stolen from St Mary's Church in Gunthorpe by unknown perpetrators. The theft is believed to have taken place at some point during the weekend of Saturday, June 11, and Sunday, June 12. The police were able to return the eagle lectern the Church in Gunthorpe.
The West Midlands police have released CCTV footage of three people wanted for smashing the windows of Life City Church with stones on 11 and 13 June. The damage to the church was £1000 and a complaint has been made.
A large church in Eckington, which has not been used for quite some time, was set on fire by unknown arsonists on the 3rd of June. Residents were told to leave their homes and two fire departments had to be called. Although this church may have been unused, its religious value was still present.
In a series of break-ins at the former South and Levern Church, more than £50,000 of damage was caused by unknown vandals. In the latest act of vandalism on the 27th of May, the organ was destroyed and radiators were torn off the walls. Although the church has been closed, it is still a sight that carries religious sentiment for many people.
The stained glass windows of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Ringmer were broken by youth with catapults and ball bearings on May 23rd. The police identified the culprits and confiscated their catapults. A police spokesperson said: “The youths will subsequently be coming into Lewes Police Station to account for their actions.”
After the windows of the St. David's Church in Newtown were broken the month before, someone returned to break them again on the 22nd of May. The church has not been used for many years but is a historic building and a religious symbol. Paul Williams, a local, said: "This is really sickening yet again. Whoever you are, stop it."
St Catherine’s Dominican Chapel, a Catholic chapel in Newry, was targeted by arsonists who set religious books and pamphlets on fire. Nobody was hurt, in the incident which happened on the 22nd of May, but the head priest had to put the fire out. A witness said they saw youths running from the scene and it was guessed that they were the arsonists.
The Kilmarnock South Parish Church in Ayrshire, was repeatedly targeted by vandals during May. Over several weeks, doors were smashed and glass was broken by a group of youth who were seen on CCTV. A spokesperson for The Well, an outreach group that organizes events at the church, said: "We are slowly trying to get the place up and running to serve the community but this is just soul destroying."
Gillian Mackay, an MSP for the Green Party, "initiated a public consultation on the Bill" that would allow a 2-year sentence to be assigned to someone who "attempts to influence or persuade someone seeking an abortion inside censorship zones," reported "RighttoLife" News. Some claim, there has been a rise in incidents outside abortion clinics involving pro-life activists, but Robert Colquhoun, the campaign director for "40 Days for Life", disagreed saying that it was actually just increased media attention that made it seem so. The introduction of such zones would negatively impact Christians who often attend such vigils due to their biblically based pro-life belief.
Between the 16th and 20th May the memorial statue from the All Saints Graveyard was stolen in Glazebury. The police reported that the family that owned the memorial statue was deeply affected and were looking for witnesses.
After a fire broke out in one room of the Evangelical Church in Newton, the police arrested one a young suspect. The fire happened on Thursday 19th of May, it was confined to one room and burned a sofa and a chair. The Dyfed-Powys Police commented: “Police are working closely with the church and that there will be a police presence at the site in the short term, with patrols increased in the area beyond that.” The police have arrested a young vandal on suspicion of arson.
A cross and candlestick were stolen from the medieval church of St. Mary in Addington on the 10th of May. Reverend Debbie Forman said that the items have "little intrinsic value" but the church is "not the same without them." The church remained open and the hope was that the thief, who was not known, would return them.
On May 10th, vandals broke into the Rotherham Church and trashed the interior. They drank wine and left broken bottles everywhere as well as destroying the church-run nursery which is used to help single mothers with childcare. The incident forced the nursery to close for a week.
The St. Nicholas Church in Boston was the victim of a burglary on the night between the 9th and 10th of May. One of the stolen items was the reliquary containing the blood of Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest who was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2009. The police are investigating.
St. Mary's church near Saxton, Yorkshire, which is an important listed building, was vandalized by anonymous intruders on May 8th. A volunteer group that takes care of the chapel wrote on Facebook: "A sickening sight this morning...litter, smashed vases, glass everywhere, and worst of all the crosses broken too. To add insult to injury, a note of apology with a fake phone number," was also left there. The chapel stands in an isolated field and has often been a place of refuge.
On the 6th of May, the Supreme Court of the UK declined to take the Bell v Tavistock case, regarding puberty blockers for teenagers under 16 years old, which means the ruling by the Court of Appeals will currently stand. After the High Court ruled that 13-year-olds were not old enough and needed parental consent to begin hormone blockers; Tavistock appealed in June of 2021 and the Court of Appeals ruled that it was not the High Court's decision to make. Instead, they ruled that parental consent was unnecessary and that clinicians could decide it with their patients. This is a significant concern for Christian parents who would disagree with such treatment.
The St. Nicholas Church in Swallow was targeted by vandalism on April 29th. Unknown perpetrators, possibly youth, took two picnic benches from the church to a park, set fire to one, and painted the other with obscene language and initials. The church was quite disappointed by the act especially since it took time to repair the damage.
Scottish ministers said they plan to explore options of mediation with pro-life activists regarding "buffer zones" around abortion clinics. According to minutes from an abortion "buffer zone" meeting in February, the Centre for Good Relations asked for engagement “with all interested parties, not just those who are directly involved with the conflict itself." The ministers were criticized for their plan which aims to understand “the issues and perspective from all sides."
The windows of the St. David's Church in Newtown were smashed by vandals on April 25th. It was not known who did the act and someone who was closely affiliated with the church said it was "absolutely disgusting to see yet again," which implies that vandalism similar to this has already occurred.