FIRST ON FOX: Several members of Congress fired off a letter Wednesday urging the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to turn his attention to the worsening treatment of Christians in the United Kingdom.
The letter, written by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, comes amid what a British lawyer who specializes in discrimination against Christians recently described to Fox News Digital as rising persecution in the country.
“The U.K. is now on an unsettling path that could potentially result in existential threats to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of thought,” read Roy’s letter to Ambassador Rashad Hussain, which was cosigned by GOP Reps. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Mary Miller of Illinois, Randy Weber of Texas, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Ben Cline of Virginia, Andy Ogles of Tennessee and Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.
Roy noted that at least five municipalities in the U.K. have approved “Public Spaces Protection Orders” (PSPOs) that allow Christians and others who express their pro-life religious beliefs to be prosecuted if they breach “buffer zones” around abortion clinics roughly the size of a football stadium.
Legislation is pending in Parliament that would expand PSPOs related to abortion clinics throughout England and Wales, and the House of Commons on March 7 voted 299-116 against an amendment that would have permitted silent prayer and consensual conversation within what Roy described as the “censorship zone.”
‘Legal and state-sanctioned harassment of Christians’
The members pinpointed the recent legal action against Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, Adam Smith-Connor and Father Sean Gough as particularly egregious examples of “the British government’s violation of religious freedom.”
“The U.K. is now on an unsettling path that could potentially result in existential threats to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of thought.”
Vaughan-Spruce and Gough were criminally charged in recent months for praying silently outside abortion clinics after police interrogated them regarding their private thoughts. Gough was also reportedly cited for sporting an “Unborn Lives Matter” bumper sticker on his car.
Gough was acquitted, and the charges against Vaughn-Spruce stemming from her December arrest were dropped, but she was arrested again for the same offense earlier this month.
Smith-Connor, a British Army veteran, was fined in January after police asked him “the nature” of his prayer outside an abortion clinic in Bournemouth. He told them he was praying for the son he lost to abortion.
UK MAN FINED FOR SILENTLY PRAYING OUTSIDE ABORTION CLINIC: REPORT
“Arresting individuals for silent prayer is a gross, aggressive, and needlessly escalatory assault on one’s fundamental freedoms,” the members wrote, adding that enforcement of such law has created “a deeply concerning pattern of legal and state-sanctioned harassment of Christians and other pro-life Brits.”
Noting the “special and uniquely close relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K., the members concluded that “it is imperative that the U.S. speak boldly and clearly to its friend when the U.K. has failed to protect unalienable rights.”
The members urged Hussain to speak out against such incidents and the laws that enable them. The U.S. State Department did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment by time of publication.
‘It was alien’
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the London-based Christian Legal Centre (CLC), told Fox News Digital that discrimination against Christians is “absolutely” increasing in her country and has been simmering for years, especially over issues of sexuality and gender.
Williams said the nonprofit CLC, which was established in 2007, is dealing with approximately 1,000 cases each year and receives calls almost daily from parents incensed about radical ideology seeping into U.K. schools.
PARENTS PULL 4-YEAR-OLD FROM CHURCH SCHOOL FOR PROMOTING ‘GENDER IDENTITY’ LESSONS: ‘CRUEL DECEPTION’
When she began practicing law in the 1980s, Williams said it would have been “impossible” to imagine a medical doctor in the U.K. losing his job for refusing to identify people based on their chosen gender identity instead of their biological sex, like CLC client Dr. David Mackereth.
Neither could she have envisioned a situation where a teacher would be dismissed for gross misconduct after objecting to socially transitioning 8-year-olds in the opposite sex, like another CLC client who cannot be named for legal reasons.
UK WOMAN ARRESTED A SECOND TIME FOR ‘OFFENSE’ OF SILENTLY PRAYING OUTSIDE ABORTION CLINIC: ‘THIS ISN’T 1984’
“If any of that had been said to me in the 1980s, it would have been like someone speaking to me from Mars,” she said. “It was alien, but it would have been alien to most people to think like that because that just wasn’t in our law.”
“Now it’s these kinds of issues that are with me every single day,” she added, noting that such trends accelerated in the wake of human rights legislation in the U.K. that ostensibly protects religion, but has also come to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.
CHRISTIANITY DWINDLES TO MINORITY RELIGION IN ENGLAND, WALES FOR FIRST TIME ON RECORD: ‘NOT A GREAT SURPRISE’
“When they come into a courtroom, people think you can leave your religion at your door, but not your sexuality,” she said. “Essentially, for a number of years, sexual orientation rights in the courtroom have trumped religious freedom rights.”
‘The world’s gone mad’
CLC has also recently represented clergy and others associated with the established Church of England, whose leaders Williams claimed have effectively enabled Christian discrimination by failing in their duty “to disciple the institutions” of the country.
According to Williams, documents such as “Valuing All God’s Children,” which is the Church of England’s guidance for schools, have been utilized against her in court. Critics have argued that the guidance opens the door to affirming children as young as 5 years old in the opposite sex, though the church has denied such accusations.
“We used to have a service that opens up the legal year to make clear that there is a law above the law,” she said. “And what ‘human rights’ have done, in effect, is to say the highest point of knowledge is our common humanity and our different rights, which now compete in the public square with no higher law.”
She characterized such a worldview as a seismic upending of the Christian basis for English common law extending back to the Magna Carta of 1215.
UK GOVERNMENT ADMITS ‘INAPPROPRIATE’ TO ARGUE BIBLE ‘OFFENSIVE’ IN CASE AGAINST CHRISTIAN STREET PREACHER
Recent clients CLC has advocated for include Rev. Bernard Randall, a chaplain who was reported as a terrorist and blacklisted by his diocese for telling students at a Church of England school that they are free to accept or reject the claims of LGBTQ activists.
Sam Margrave, who was elected to the church’s General Synod on a platform of “upholding biblical values,” told Fox News Digital last month that he was formally rebuked by the church’s highest-ranking clerics and reported to the police by his own archbishop for opposing the sexualization of children on social media.
ANGLICAN LEADERS REJECT ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY AFTER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DECISION: ‘FALSE TEACHING’
David McConnell, a street preacher from Leeds who won his appeal last week after being reported as a terrorist for misgendering a member of the public during a sermon, told Fox News Digital he has been arrested eight times since 2018 without a conviction because of his speech.
“I’m concerned that if things continue to go on as they are, as the culture changes, slowly the laws will get changed, which will hinder freedom of expression and give authorities more powers to shut people like me down and actually get convictions for preachers,” McConnell said.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“The world’s gone mad, the nation’s gone mad,” he added. “Most common, everyday people just think it’s crazy, but most people are frightened to speak up.”