Thursday, November 16, 2023

Another English Pro-Lifer Is Penalized for Praying

Marchwood army veteran Adam Smith-Connor, supported by ADF UK, facing BCP  prosecution for praying outside abortion facility

“It’s unbelievable that, in England 2023, the state sees it as appropriate to prosecute me for praying silently in a public space.”

So says Adam Smith-Connor, 49, who has been charged under legislation designed to end pro-life witness outside of abortion facilities.

On Nov. 16, he will return to Poole Magistrates Court, Dorset, where a few months earlier, on Aug. 9, he pleaded “not guilty” to charges of contravening a “buffer-zone” regulation relating to a local abortion facility.

His supposed crime? Praying silently in the vicinity of such a place. The reason for his prayers on that day is a deeply personal one. He was praying for his son who was aborted 23 years ago.

“If anyone had seen me that day, they would have assumed I was waiting for a taxi or perhaps waiting for someone inside the abortion facility,” he explains. “It was only because I was honest when asked about ‘the nature of my prayer’ that I’m now being prosecuted. If I had said, ‘I was praying for friends killed in action serving the nation,’ I would have been left alone. I’m being prosecuted because I said I was praying for my deceased son Jacob, who died in an abortion 23 years ago.”

Smith-Connor has been on a long journey since that dark day.

Born in London, he was raised by his mother and later a stepfather; at age 18, Smith-Connor attended university in Birmingham, where he trained as a physiotherapist. In 1996, he joined the Territorial Army (British Army Reserve). 

Eventually, he would serve in Afghanistan. As part of his military medical training, he admits to having “assisted briefly in abortion theaters on two occasions.” 

He was then an atheist and viewed abortion as being “no more morally problematic than having a tooth extraction.”

With hindsight, he can see that even though he had paid for the abortion of his son and assisted in abortions while serving in the military, he had “never investigated the morality of abortion.” 

A series of experiences brought him to a more fundamental understanding, making it clear to him “that all the science clearly shows that a whole distinct human being comes into existence at the moment of conception and, therefore, abortion deliberately kills that innocent human child.”

He also discovered “that the abortion industry’s own research shows that abortion has a negative impact on the psychological and often physical well-being of the mother. 

By its own admission, out of a misplaced, some might say, perverse desire to ‘protect’ the mother from the truth, the abortion industry will hide from her the true nature [of what is happening] by using euphemisms to dehumanize the child, by referring to it as a ‘product of conception,’ ‘pregnancy tissue’ or ‘blob of cells.’”

This realization has had a profound personal impact on Smith-Connor, who, today, is a married man with two children, 11 and 8 years old.

“As a father, I could see that I had been deceived,” he reflects, speaking again of the events from more than 20 years ago, “perhaps willingly at the time, as I did not want the responsibility of fatherhood.” 

He continues, “When I paid for the abortion, I misguidedly thought we had to do it quickly before the embryo became a baby. I had no idea Jacob was already a fully human baby when he was killed in his mother’s womb.”

A major part of his journey to understanding the true nature of life and, by extension, what abortion really is, began when he converted to Christianity five years ago. 

During his criminal prosecution, however, Smith-Connor has undergone another transformation. 

At the Easter vigil 2023, he was received into the Catholic Church.

“As an evangelical, I was impressed by the Catholics I met,” he observes. “They were far more willing to suffer persecution for their faith than the evangelical Christians in my church.”

Thereafter, he started to understand Catholic teaching in regard to Our Lady and the doctrine of transubstantiation. 

He also found himself impressed by the history of the Catholic Church and, in particular, with clear roots in the New Testament, the role of the Petrine office. 

Today, he describes himself as “a born-again evangelical Roman Catholic.”

By his own admission, when Smith-Connor was baptized in November 2018, he was Christian but not pro-life. Shortly after his baptism, however, things took a dramatic turn.

“About a week or so after my baptism, I had a graphic dream,” he recalls, “in which I butchered my baby son with a large knife. I was horrified when I woke up.”

It was this experience, he claims, that set him off on a path that now has led him to a criminal court.

Smith-Connor is one of a number of such cases that have come before English courts in recent years. Increasingly, these cases involving abortion facilities test laws that have been criticized for seemingly criminalizing thoughts, as opposed to what the criminal code normally deals with: acts.

Jeremiah Igunnubole serves as legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF UK) and is representing Smith-Connor in his forthcoming trial.

“The defense will submit to the court that the local council — the prosecuting authority, in this case — has no power in law to interfere with, restrict or penalize Adam for act of silently praying,” he states.

Furthermore, Igunnubole will submit to the court that the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, under which Smith-Connor is charged, “does not confer a free-standing power to the council to curtail any expression or thought.” 

On the contrary, Igunnubole says, council officers are required to interpret such legislation in light of the U.K.’s Human Rights Act 1998 that explicitly protects freedom of thought. 

His hope is that the Smith-Connor case will raise “serious and significant questions” about the unaccountable power that local councils hold in relation to these matters, “in effect,” he suggests, “putting themselves — local councils — in the position of judge, jury and executioner.”

Speaking to the Register, Lois McLatchie Miller, ADF senior legal communications officer, senses that cases such as Smith-Connor’s sends a wider message to the British public, and not just on the issue of abortion, but with regard to freedom of thought in general.

“A democracy can only sustain itself where there is room for free expression for all,” she says. “Yet the recent crackdown on pro-life thought — even if silent — is exposing a creeping intolerance in the United Kingdom.” 

She says that ADF UK sees it as “vital” that the current U.K. government takes note of cases such as Smith-Connor’s so as “to reaffirm their commitment to protecting the rights of people like Adam, who simply want to pray — or offer help — to those facing decisions about abortion.”

Whatever happens in court this month, having been deployed in combat zones while serving as a soldier, Adam Smith-Connor is ready to continue to fight in a very different war now. 

He maintains that the majority of the British public is simply unaware of “the injustice of abortion and ‘buffer zones.’” 

He senses this is because of a lack of awareness around the reality of abortion, which, therefore, allows such an injustice to continue.

“It’s my prayer that God will use the buffer zones to raise public awareness of what is really going on and wake people up to what is being done in their name,” he says. 

In his mind, the battle lines are now clearly drawn: “It cannot be right to prosecute people for practicing their faith and for offering help to vulnerable families.” 

He adds, “I want truth, justice and love once more to prevail in England.”