Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Christian Grandmother in High Court over Abortion Campaign

A Christian grandmother is going to the High Court Tuesday, 23 January to clarify the law on her human rights and free speech, after she was convicted under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 for trying to "educate" pharmacists who dispensed the 'morning after pill' to "another point of view", the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship has told Christian Today.
In 2004, Veronica Connolly, a devout Roman Catholic, expressed her anger over the right of pharmacists to dispense the 'morning after pill' over the counter, but her actions led to three convictions.
As a Catholic, she believes an unborn baby is a child of God, and as such, abortion is a form of murder. She also believes that the 1967 Abortion Act should be repealed. In 2004, an article in Catholic newspaper The Universe suggested readers should write to pharmacists who stock the ‘morning after pill’, voicing their concerns on the issue of abortion. From 2004-5, Mrs. Connolly wrote to pharmacists, attaching photographs of aborted fetuses to highlight her concerns, having first telephoned them to ensure they stocked the ‘morning after pill’, and, to seek their permission to send the photographs. If a pharmacists did not grant her permission to do this, she did not send the photographs, the LCF says.
On 10 February 2005, one pharmacist made a complaint and the police were called. On February 13, Mrs. Connolly was taken to Solihull Police Station for questioning. She was then arrested without warning, and in the presence of her daughter and five-year-old granddaughter. She was held at the police station for approximately seven hours, and in that time she was provided with very insignificant facilities for a woman in a wheelchair. Mrs Connolly suffers from a condition known as Myalgic Enchymylitus, which means that she cannot stand for long periods and she has to use a wheelchair, explains the LCF.
Mrs Connolly was charged under the Malicious Communications Act 1988. Essentially, the Act states that if a communication is either ‘indecent’ or ‘grossly offensive’ and that one of the purposes of sending it is to cause 'distress' or 'anxiety', then an offence has been committed. Consequently, Mrs Connolly was charged, and on 13 July 2005, she entered a plea of ‘Not Guilty’ at Solihull Magistrates Court. On October 6, she was convicted of offences contrary to the 1988 Act. On 27 January 2006, she unsuccessfully appealed against her conviction.
Mrs Connolly, who has instructed civil rights barrister Paul Diamond to represent her in court today, said: "My cases raises fundamental human rights issues, including freedom of religion, and manifestation of religion, under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and freedom of expression, under article 10. The court said the pictures I sent were offensive, and that the purpose of sending those pictures was to cause offence. Yet, I was only seeking to express my deeply held views on the issue of abortion, and seeking to communicate those views boldly, but peacefully. Surely in a free and Christian country, and indeed a pluralist society, I should be able to express my faith in ways which I feel are appropriate?"
"Tomorrow, we are seeking clarification on a point of law. If the law, as used in my case, really means that you cannot debate, demonstrate or try to educate people towards another point of view simply because they, or anyone, can claim their are sensitive and offended by your actions, then freedom of speech and expression, and democracy has been killed off by a little-known Act of Parliament, and should be repealed.
" Andrea Minichiello Williams, public policy officer for the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, which supports Mrs Connolly in her appeal, added: "Surely there must be many more cases worthy of prosecution under the Malicious Communications Act 1988."
"Mrs Connolly’s case is seemingly far from the most serious example of an ‘indecent’ or ‘grossly offensive’ communication. Mrs Connolly asked the permission of highly qualified and educated people, dealing daily with the moral, social and ethical issues surrounding abortion, if she could send them information giving another side to the debate. These clinicians, who, even as pharmacology students, would have seen far worse pictures, agreed and only one person made a complaint. This Act was used to the extreme to suppress freedoms of expression and speech. Any form of religious expression can, of course, be offensive, in that other members of society will often disagree with it. But that is often the nature of the expression of religious views."
"What this case demonstrates is the suppression of an unpopular political viewpoint, and specifically, that it demonstrates a suppression of biblical teaching on the sanctity of life."

Editorial: If the UK government gets away with this sort of oppression for religious expression, then you can bet the current liberals on the US Supreme Court will look to international law and case precedent to suppress our Christian values in America. IF that happens, you can kiss freedom itself goodbye -- as only popular opinion and the sway of the mental whims of those in power will matter. Truth, justice and freedom will suffer tremendously.