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First Things on 3/28/2023 by Elyssa Koren
Stop and pray on the street in front of an abortion facility in England or Wales and you could find yourself under arrest. Never mind if your thoughts were lifted to God silently. Clause 11 of the Public Order Bill, recently adopted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, bans “influencing” of any sort, including prayer, in a 150-meter zone around abortion facilities nationwide. An amendment to exempt silent prayer and consensual conversation from the ban failed, ushering in a new era of modern-day thought crimes in the U.K.
The parliamentary debate played out like a dystopian film script. Concerned Members of Parliament repeatedly raised the question: In a free society, should we really be arresting individuals on the basis of their thoughts? Hell-bent on the introduction of so-called “buffer zones,” the opposition argued that these zones are essential to protect women seeking an abortion from intimidation. When pushed on the question of thought crimes, Rupa Huq, Member of Parliament from Britain’s Labour Party, summed up the pro-censorship view: “There is a time and a place for everything”—including, in her estimation, the banning of silent prayer.