A police department in the United Kingdom has dropped charges against a 76-year-old Christian woman for walking and praying silently in front of an abortion clinic. Her attorneys say while it is a victory for religious freedom, her arrest should never have happened and is a part of a troublesome trend.
Alliance Defending Freedom UK announced July 18 that the Merseyside Police had dropped charges against Rosa Lalor of Liverpool for praying outside an abortion clinic during the coronavirus epidemic in February 2021, even though she was complying with government rules for being outside and even wearing a mask.
Following her arrest by a Merseyside County police officer, who told her she didn’t have a “reasonable excuse” to be praying because she wasn’t at a church, she was detained and fined. Local authorities have also dropped the fine against Lalor.
“We’re thrilled to celebrate a victory for Rosa today,” said Jeremiah Igunnubole, legal counsel for ADF UK, who supported Rosa’s case, “but it is deeply regrettable that this law-abiding woman was subjected to distressing, drawn-out criminal proceedings in the first place, no doubt due to her pro-life stance. This follows a worrying trend in law enforcement where individuals are routinely arrested simply because their views are considered to be controversial or offensive.”
Lalor said in a statement: “I’m delighted that the prosecution has finally dropped this charge after a long and exhausting battle for justice. I took this challenge forward with support from ADF UK to show that we do all have a fundamental right to pray—not least pray as I did, in the privacy of my own mind. It was wrong for the police officer to tell me that I could not pray in a public street. It’s important for officers to respect basic religious freedom, and improve their understanding of how that right manifests, in order to maintain a truly tolerant society.”
Yet despite Lalor’s victory, ADF UK says the Liverpool council is now seeking to introduce censorship zones to prevent the kind of activity for which Lalor has now received full vindication.
Also, ADF UK says a bill in Northern Ireland that would prevent “influencing” a person, directly or indirectly, within 100 meters of abortion facilities, is before the UK Supreme Court this week.
According to ADF UK, Northern Ireland’s attorney general, Dame Brenda King, referred the bill to the Supreme Court because it “omits a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ and is therefore incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”
In Lalor’s case, Merseyside Police admitted that Lalor was well within her rights to prayer walk in a public space and that her actions were “reasonable” and should not have been curtailed under coronavirus regulations.
Further, they conceded Lalor had a right to pray under Article 9 of the ECHR, which states that everyone has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, “either alone or in community with others and in public or private.”
Photo: Courtesy of ADF UK