Judge to decide fate of British pastor facing prison for displaying Bible verse

Christian preacher Stephen Green
Christian preacher Stephen Green | Christian Legal Centre

At a court in London, 72-year-old Christian preacher Stephen Green faces a crucial decision that could determine his fate as he is being prosecuted for holding a sign with a verse from Psalm 139 within a designated “buffer zone” outside an abortion clinic.

District Judge Kathryn Verghis of Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court will render her verdict on the case under section 67 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 on Thursday, the Christian Legal Centre said in a statement sent to The Christian Post.

Green, from South Wales, found himself prosecuted by Ealing Council for holding a sign with Psalm 139:13 outside an MSI Reproductive Choices clinic in Mattock Lane, West London, on Feb. 6. The sign carried the words: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.”

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

If found guilty, Green could face imprisonment for six months and/or a fine of roughly $1,250 for violating a Public Spaces Protection Order, or PSPO, enacted by Ealing Council in April 2018.

This PSPO, the first of its kind in the U.K., established a “buffer zone” around the abortion clinic, prohibiting various activities, including protesting related to abortion services, which includes acts of approval or disapproval, even including prayer.

Notably, PSPO legislation is typically employed to address issues like “anti-social” behavior, such as dog fouling, littering and alcohol and drug misuse. However, in this case, it extends to matters of public protest and expression.

Evidence provided by a clinic staff member who reported Green claims that the incident lasted about an hour. During this time, the individual was holding a Bible and appeared to be reading aloud from it. The police treated the incident as an emergency, as confirmed by a text message received by the clinic staff.

Green, who serves as the director of the campaign group Christian Voice, had left the area before the police arrived. Nonetheless, seven months later, he received a prosecution notice from Ealing Council.

The charge sheet presented to Green states that he engaged in an act of disapproval related to abortion services by holding a large sign displaying the text from Psalm 139:13. This action is deemed contrary to Section 67 (1) (a) of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

This case has broader implications, as it comes in the wake of national “buffer zones” around abortion clinics introduced in January 2023 following an amendment to the Public Order Bill. The implementation of these zones has sparked controversy, with politicians and campaigners expressing concerns that they might stifle free speech and limit access to alternatives to abortion for vulnerable women.

The government has published and is seeking public input on draft guidance for these zones, which acknowledges the need to align buffer zones with human rights, including the right to manifest religious beliefs, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. It explicitly states that silent prayer, as an engagement of the mind and thought in prayer toward God, is protected as an absolute right under the Human Rights Act 1998 and should not be considered an offense.

The guidance also emphasizes that motionless, unintrusive conduct should not be treated as an offense, particularly when there is no indication that the individual intends to engage with anyone accessing, providing or facilitating abortion services.

Before a hearing on Jan. 19, Green expressed his views on the prosecution.

“I see this prosecution as an attack on the Bible and free speech. I am determined to defend myself and fight for justice,” he was quoted as saying. “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.’’

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles