Formally encouraged, non-mandatory, non-denominational spoken prayer was removed from all U.S. public schools as per the Supreme Court case of Engel v. Vitale in 1962. In this case, the Court concluded that prayer was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment). The Establishment Clause, found in the first ten words of the First Amendment, states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." As you can see, the language from the Bill of Rights does not mention prayer, which would seem to be an entirely different concept than the establishment of any particular religion.
A city in the United Kingdom, a country which does not formally recognize freedom of speech as a fundamental right as we do here in the United States, has taken the aforementioned anti-prayer concept a few steps further. In Birmingham, England, a woman was recently issued a fine for the mere act of silently praying in front of an abortion facility. The fine was related to a “buffer zone” that the local city council created to surround and “protect” abortion clinics.
Regarding the U.K. local ordinance, a video has recently surfaced of an incident that occurred on October 18 of this year. It shows questions being asked by local police to Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, the alleged “criminal” in this case, who was standing (but not speaking or holding any signs) inside the buffer zone.
Some of the questions asked by police to the perpetrator included:
*Are you part of a pro-life organization?
*Are you protesting?
*Are you here to pray for the lives of unborn children?
*Why have you chosen this location?
*Are you aware that there is a “public space protection order” in place at this location?
If you did not notice, there is some encouraging news here as one of the above questions appears to also be an admission of reality. To explain, note that one of the questions asked is whether the alleged criminal was there to pray for the lives of unborn children. This is significant, as the police officer could have chosen to ask about unborn “masses of tissue” or unborn “entities” (or any other intentionally generic and medically/scientifically incorrect but euphemistic term). The use of this key word (i.e., “children”), which describes human beings below the age of adulthood, is auspicious, as it suggests that the City Council (the group responsible for passing the ordinance) appears to believe that unborn children are both human and alive.
After reviewing the full list of questions that were asked by the officer in the video, and in an approach similar to one of my earlier articles, I have developed my own list of questions for the Birmingham rule makers (or anyone else who has or intends to pass similar ordinances). They are as follows:
To the local City Council of Birmingham:
1. Is all prayer on any issue to be silenced within your buffer zone? If not, why should only prayer related to unborn children and abortion be silenced and/or punished?
2. Are the prayers of any particular religion deemed more offensive than another? If yes, which one(s)? For instance, does the ordinance equally apply to prayers by Muslims, Sikhs or Jews?
3. If someone were to (God forbid) pray for abortion rather than against it, would that make a difference?
4. If certain silent thoughts are illegal within the buffer zone, why are they somehow not illegal outside the zone? Does this mean that the criminality of your specifically identified silent thoughts is based solely on geographic location? If yes, why?
5. How does (or can) silent prayer hurt your city? Does it relate to harming other individuals?
6. How does (or can) silent prayer harm other individuals? Does it involve their comfort?
7. Is the act of making someone feel uncomfortable a crime under UK statutes? If yes, which one(s)? Also, is it your expectation that all acts impacting the comfort of an individual in a negative way will someday be made illegal? Do you have any specific concerns for the comfort of individuals who are pro-life?
8. Is silently praying to the God of the Universe an act of protest? If so, why? How is it an act of protest? Are you aware of any definitions of the word “prayer” that describe it as protest? If yes, please share all that you find.
9. In terms of protest, why have you chosen to focus on protecting abortion, as opposed to any other issue(s)?
10. From an operational/administrative perspective, how can silent thoughts of prayer (or even silent thoughts of protest) be illegal? Wouldn’t the enforcement of your ordinance require the ability to read minds? Are any members of the City Council able to read minds? (If the answer is yes, can you tell me what am I thinking right now…?)
11. Are you aware of any other country on earth or any place in history where silent thoughts have been made illegal? Please avoid fictional examples, as I am already aware of the English Socialist (“Ingsoc”) country/region of “Oceania” that is described (in detail) in George Orwell’s wonderfully written but frightening novel 1984, first published in 1948. If you can find no other examples, has fiction now become reality in the UK?
Finally, regarding your admission (referenced above) involving unborn children:
12. Are they in fact both human and alive? If you believe they are not human children, what kind of children are they? If they are human children but are not alive, are they dead? If the unborn children are in fact both human and alive, why doesn’t abortion involve the killing of children? If your answer to this question is no, why not? If you acknowledge abortion as the killing of children, why is it permissible to kill children, but not permissible to kill teenagers and adults?
I look forward to reading your responses.
Bradley W. Shumaker
Photo Credit- Deacon Greng Kandra