Prayer that ‘judges others’ to run afoul of abortion buffer zones law

A person’s perception that they are being judged may trigger the arrest of someone engaged in silent prayer near an abortion facility, according to the author of an exclusion zone bill in Scotland.

Green MSP Gillian Mackay’s bill would create buffer zones of 200 metres around such facilities, in a bid to prevent women and staff from being “harassed”.

Controversially, this would even include the act of praying silently.

Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour lodged an amendment to exclude silent prayer from its terms.

He said he himself stands at a bus stop within 200 metres of an abortion clinic in Edinburgh three times a week, and does sometimes pray while waiting there and could therefore be subject to prosecution.

However, Ms Mackay told Mr Balfour: “The offences are not about what you are thinking, but what you are doing and the effect that has on others.

“If someone stands silently praying for a long time, deliberately looking at women accessing an abortion clinic, or for example with a sign, then they maybe committing an offence”.

Ms Mackay said that was “not because of the prayer, it is because of the sense of judgment”.