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UK report claims priest charged for holding ‘praying for free speech’ sign, having pro-life bumper sticker

A Catholic priest was criminally charged for going into what’s being called a censorship zone to stand silently and pray near a closed abortion facility with a “praying for free speech” sign, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK. 

Father Sean Gough was charged for entering a censorship zone in Birmingham, England, which prohibits prayer and the sharing of pregnancy support information, the ADF UK stated. In the same area, Gough was also charged for a small “unborn lives matter” bumper sticker that was on the back of his car. 

The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), which prohibits prayer in certain places, distributing information about pregnancy help services and other activities under its umbrella definition of “protest” has been in effect in Birmingham since November. Gough was charged with “intimidating service-users” of the abortion facility, even though the facility was closed at the time of his peaceful protest. 

“I pray wherever I go, inside my head, for the people around me,” Father Gough told the ADF UK. “How can it be a crime for a priest to pray? I often pray in my head near the abortion facility, but at the time in question, I was praying for free speech, which is under severe pressure in our country today.”


“At all times, I believed my actions to be lawful – freedom of expression, especially when peaceful, is protected in domestic and international law,” he added. “It is deeply undemocratic to censor public streets, particularly those spaces where we know that many women have benefited from peaceful offers of help about services available.”

At first, police officers did not think Gough had broken any rules, but he was later called to the police station for police interview regarding his actions, which resulted in criminal charges, according to the ADF UK press release. 

The charges were later dropped. Gough said he plans to get a clear verdict on his charges in court to clear his name.

“Father Sean is understandably seeking clarity as to the lawfulness of his actions,” Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK said in a press release. “Though charges were dropped after several weeks due to ‘insufficient evidence,’ he has been warned that further evidence relating to the charges may soon be forthcoming, implying the entire grueling process could soon restart from the beginning.”


“This is a clear instance of the process becoming the punishment and creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the UK – a value that this government, incidentally, had promised to champion in their election manifesto,” he added. 

In another similar instance, Adam Smith-Connor, a father and army veteran, was fined in Bournemouth after local authorities questioned him about the “nature of his prayer,” within a censorship zone, to which he admitted he was praying for his son who was aborted over twenty years ago and still haunts him to this day. ADF UK points to the distinction that Father Gough’s incident is the first of the recent cases where the criminalized prayer is related to free speech, not abortion.


“The process in and of itself has become the punishment for people like Father Sean, who face onerous legal battles simply for holding peaceful views in certain public spaces, against the will of authorities,” Igunnubole said. “Nobody should be criminalised for peaceful activities like praying for the state of free speech in our country, or having a simple bumper sticker on their car that expresses a belief that ‘unborn lives matter’.”

Gough said his ministry works with the charity “Rachel’s Vineyard,” which aids hundreds of UK women and men wounded by abortion every year. 

“I don’t judge or condemn those who have had abortions – but volunteer my time to work for their healing,” he said. “It’s an issue that means a lot to me because my mom made a bold choice for life when I was a baby.”

“I was conceived in the context of severe violence, and she found the grace and strength to fight for us both,” he added. “So many people thought she should abort me, but by the grace of God, she didn’t, and we’re both so grateful for that today.”

Fox News Digital attempted to reach out to the West Midlands Police Department, but their website is non-functioning. Fox News Digital also reached out to Crown Prosecution Service, but did not hear back.

Lois McLatchie, a spokesperson for ADF UK, a group supporting the priest, told Fox News Digital: “What has happened to Father Sean Gough makes clear that so-called ‘buffer zones’ go much to far in eroding fundamental freedoms, tantamount to the prosecution of thought crimes. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought. By banning prayer, including silent prayer, these censorship zones contravene the basic human right to think freely and in accordance with one’s conscience.” 

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