Christian preacher facing prison over Bible sign near abortion clinic

Stephen Green(Photo: Christian Legal Centre)

A Christian preacher who held a sign with a Bible verse on it inside an abortion clinic 'buffer zone' could be sent to prison.

Stephen Green, 72, from south Wales, is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) who said that he is being prosecuted after holding the sign within a buffer zone outside a clinic in Ealing, west London, run by MSI Reproductive Choices, formerly Marie Stopes International. 

The clinic was one of the first in the country to be granted a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) by the local council forbidding prayer, protesting and "engaging in an act of approval/disapproval" towards abortion services. 

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

Ealing Council decided to take action against Mr Green in February under section 67 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. 

Green, the director of campaign group Christian Voice, was due to appear at a court hearing on Tuesday. He faces being sent to prison for six months and a £1,000 fine. 

Ahead of the hearing, Mr Green said: "I was deeply shocked to receive the summons from Ealing Council.

"I see this prosecution as an attack on the Bible and free speech. I am determined to defend myself and fight for justice.

"People are right to be concerned about the buffer zone legislation. To bar Christian witness and to control what people can say in an area is draconian and anti-Christian.

"There is a huge principle at stake here. If we are not free to hold a sign with a verse from Psalm 139 on it in a London street, then none of us is free."

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, called buffer zones "an oppressive part of the current culture which force consent and silence dissent".

"The effect of the PSPO is to criminalise any act of disapproval of abortion and to create an area where no discussion or even prayer relating to abortion, is permitted," she said. 

"There have now been over 10 million abortions in the UK since abortion was legalised in 1967. That is a staggering number. That is almost twice the population of Scotland and more than the entire population of London. Millions of people would be alive today if abortion had not been legalised.

"Instead of lamenting this loss of life we are industrialising it, making it ever easier to obtain abortion effectively on demand, and now we are criminalising dissent.

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