Bishop John Sherrington responds to Home Secretary’s comments that silent prayer “is not unlawful”

Bishop John Sherrington, the Lead Bishop for Life Issues, has welcomed the recent comments of Home Secretary Suella Braverman that “silent prayer, in itself, is not unlawful”, widely understood to pertain to recent pro-life demonstrations outside abortion clinics.

Mrs Braverman made the comments in a letter to the chief constables of England and Wales earlier in September, following instances this year of pro-life activists being arrested outside abortion clinics.

Bishop John’s statement is below.

“Freedom of religion is an essential foundation for the flourishing of society. I welcome the Home Secretary’s recent letter to the Chief Constables of England and Wales where, amongst other things, she wrote that ‘silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful’. She also went on to express that ‘holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence.’ I thank the Home Secretary for her comments and clarification. Silent prayer and the holding of certain views in the privacy of one’s mind, wherever this takes place, are fundamental rights and freedoms which the State must uphold and respect.

“The bishops continue to be concerned about the Public Order Act 2023, particularly the practical application of s.9 where the new offence of ‘interference with access to or provision of abortion services’ has a potentially discriminatory and disproportionate impact on people of faith.

“I reiterate our teaching on this matter and the principles which underpin it. I pray for all those working and seeking to uphold this precious freedom.”