UK Priest Charged With Praying Denounces Criminalizing Thoughts

A U.K. priest who faced criminal charges for praying outside an abortion clinic told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Wednesday that free speech is under siege in his country.

Father Sean Gough was interrogated outside the abortion facility over “the thoughts I was having in my head, my prayers to God, and then I was charged for doing just this.”

Gough told the audience that no one should face criminalization for their thoughts. The priest was standing outside a Birmingham clinic holding a sign that said “praying for freedom of speech.” There was a “censorship zone” established within 160 yards of the clinic.

This zone was created by the local city council, which prohibited praying, distributing literature, and other actions deemed “anti-social behavior.”

Incredibly, he was also charged for having a bumper sticker on his car that read “Unborn Lives Matter.” Also among his charges were “intimidating service-users of the clinic.”

Father Gough is far from the only British citizen to face persecution for prayers. U.K. March for Life Director Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested while standing outside an abortion clinic merely because an onlooker suspected she may be praying.

The good news is that both Vaughan-Spruce and Gough were formally acquitted of all charges Thursday morning by the Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. She said that, while she is happy to be exonerated, she should not have been “treated like a criminal simply for silently praying.”

She said that concerning these zones, merely offering to assist women in crisis pregnancies is now deemed “criminal” or “anti-social.” The result, however, is censorship of free speech and the freedom to offer help and even pray.

Local authorities dropped the charges against Vaughan-Bruce earlier this month, but she persisted in pursuing a verdict to clear her name.

The Alliance Defending Freedom UK represented Vaughan-Spruce. Attorney Jeremiah Igunnubole celebrated the ruling and described it as having “great cultural significance.”

He noted that “this isn’t 1984, but 2023 (and) nobody should be criminalized for their thoughts, for their prayers, for peaceful expression on a public street.” These rulings are a small step towards acknowledging that freedom of speech still exists in the U.K.