Christian preacher convicted over Bible verse sign in abortion clinic buffer zone

A Christian preacher has been found guilty of breaching an abortion clinic buffer zone after holding up a sign showing a Bible verse. 

Stephen Green was prosecuted by Ealing Council after he held the sign outside an abortion clinic run by MSI Reproductive Choices, formerly Marie Stopes. 

The sign carried the words "Psalm 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb."

The abortion clinic is subject to a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) that bans any "act of disapproval" of abortion, including praying and reading from the Bible, within the parameters of the buffer zone. 

He was found guilty of breaching the PSPO at Uxbridge Magistrates' Court in west London on Friday. 

Handing down judgment, District Judge Kathryn Verghis said that although Mr Green's protest had been "peaceful", his actions "were not proportionate".

"The extract of the Psalm mentioning 'my mother's womb'...was an act of protest of abortion. There were less controversial verses you could have chosen to display. I can come to no other conclusion that [the verse] was an act of disapproval [of abortion services].. an act prohibited [by the PSPO]," she said. 

The judge imposed a one-year conditional discharge, a victim surcharge of £26, and a costs order of £2,400.

Mr Green, who is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC), plans to appeal the conviction and said he would "rather go to prison" than pay the costs imposed by the court. 

"As a Christian I should be able to preach freely all over the land. Psalm 139 is about how we all belong to God from conception," he said. 

"Buffer zones and this conviction is a direct attack on the Bible and free speech, which is being licenced by the state. I have no choice but to continue to defend myself and fight for justice," he said." 

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "Psalm 139 is one of the most well known and beautiful passages in the Bible which points to the hope and comfort of each person being wonderfully made and looked after by God.

"Hearing a judge say that verses from Psalm 139 are an 'act of protest' and to be punished is devastating.

"The effect of the PSPO is to create an area where Bible versed and prayer are outlawed

"We will stand with Mr Green as he seeks justice in this case."