SPUC Conference 2023

His Grace, ✠Jerome had the privilege of attending the conference hosted by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in Milton Keynes last weekend. It proved to be an incredibly encouraging and inspiring experience. The passionate speakers effectively communicated the remarkable efforts undertaken by the charity in their dedicated pursuit of the goal to “make abortion unthinkable”.

We were delighted on the first evening to hear in person one of the UK’s most courageous spokesmen for the gospel and orthodox Christianity, culture warrior Deacon Calvin Robinson. He gave an inspiring talk about the importance and relevance of the pro-life campaign for the sake of women and unborn children and some great words of encouragement to all present. We took the opportunity to thank him for his efforts online and in the media “to speak the truth to power” and assured him of our support and prayers for his work.

Deacon Robinson was the sole “keynote” speaker this year, as the Executive Committee judiciously deemed it preferable to update the members on the charitable campaigns and advancements since the previous in-person conference in 2019, prior to the Covid outbreak. Diverse members of the SPUC staff shared their expertise through informative presentations, interactive workshops, and engaging showcases, illuminating the remarkable achievements and ongoing endeavors of the organization.

The conference commenced with a formal address delivered by the esteemed CEO. John Deighan, a distinguished Papal knight, brings an extensive history of political campaigning and media involvement on ethical matters, spanning nearly three decades in both the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments. He initially pursued a career in engineering and teaching before dedicating sixteen years as the Parliamentary Officer of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. In 2021, he assumed the role of CEO of SPUC UK, succeeding veteran pro-life campaigner, John Smeaton. John delivered an eloquent and compelling speech at the conference, leaving the audience deeply inspired.

We were thoroughly impressed by the extensive range of projects currently in progress. These include ongoing initiatives to engage with schools, as well as the development of RSE curriculum support materials, theatrical productions, and even a feature film with globally recognised actors. Additionally, efforts are being made to provide support for pregnant students and offer after-abortion recovery care and support services for women. The talks and showcases proved to be highly informative in a professional setting.

SPUC National Conference 22-24 September 2023. Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, Milton Keynes. Photo by and copyright of Paul McSherry 07770 393960 @Paulmcsherry2

The opening presentation was given by Alithea Williams, the Public Policy Manager at SPUC, titled “An Historical Aberration? A Comprehensive Look at 55 Years of Abortion in the United Kingdom.” During her talk, she meticulously examined the legal history of abortion, both in ancient times and specifically in our own country and the beginnings of the pro-life movement. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the concept of the fetus as a non-human entity gained traction, influenced by ideologies such as Communism, National Socialism, and eugenics, before eventually being adopted by feminists.

Advocates for abortion rights consistently endeavor to contest this notion by utilizing language and terminology that diminishes the significance of the fetus and the act of abortion. Nevertheless, the fundamental principle of acknowledging the humanity of the Unborn remains the cornerstone of British law, as exemplified by recent case law.

Carla Foster was convicted for performing a late-term abortion during the Covid pandemic. Initially sentenced to 28 months in prison, her sentence was later reduced to a 14-month suspended one. She was convicted under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, Foster in Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court by Justice Edward Pepperall “for administering drugs or using instruments to procure an abortion”.

Presented by Margaret Akers, SPUC Services Co-ordinator, the informative discussion on “Changing Narratives: How SPUC’s Impact on Women Can Drive Positive Change” shed light on the impact of abortion on women. A new initiative called Her Voice was introduced, which allows women to share their personal experiences of abortion and its effects. The website provides a platform for women to record their testimonies, which can be shared with others seeking to understand the impact of abortion.

SPUC National Conference 22-24 September 2023. Kents Hill Park Training and Conference Centre, Milton Keynes. Photo by and copyright of Paul McSherry 07770 393960 @Paulmcsherry2

Margaret also shed light on two ongoing initiatives. The Alma Mater Fund, which extends financial assistance to university students facing unplanned pregnancies, and The Abortion Recovery Care & Helpline (ARCH), SPUC’s affiliated organization, dedicated to supporting women, men, and families in rebuilding their lives and relationships post-abortion. Both these initiatives are making a huge difference to the lives of the women and families they help.

We also learned about the SPUC petition on Abortion Coercion, calling on the Health Secretary to commission research into the area of abortion coercion, and in doing so, to make this “insidious problem” a priority for health and social policy moving forward. Ideas about “choice” and “autonomy” are central to the abortion industry, however, many abortions take place because a woman feels she has no choice – either because of her circumstances, or because she has been forced by her partner, family, or even medical professionals. Highlighting the insidious problem of abortion coercion is one of SPUC’s current major campaign concerns.

The problem of abortion coercion is backed up by recent research. A BBC poll found that 15% of all British women had experienced pressure or coercion to have an abortion that they did not want. In addition, 3% (33) of respondents said they had been given a substance or tablet to induce an abortion without their knowledge or consent. 5% (54 women) said they had experienced physical violence with the intent to end their pregnancy.

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Michael Robinson, Executive Director of SPUC (Public Affairs and Legal Services), delivered a presentation titled “Making abortion unthinkable.” During the session, he delved into the successful advocacy efforts that have led to changes in abortion laws in various countries. It was especially enlightening to gain insights into the strategic approaches employed by abortion advocates and similar activists, and to explore how we can leverage those same tactics to bring about positive change ourselves.

President of Texas Right to Life, Dr. John Seago’s interview provided a comprehensive explanation of how strategically shifting the conversation around the Unborn to emphasize their inherent humanity proved to be a highly effective approach in influencing public opinion and driving legislative change. Through his groundbreaking Texas Heartbeat Act, Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), Dr. Seago played a pivotal role in the momentous overturning of Roe V Wade in the United States on June 24, 2022. This remarkable accomplishment solidifies his status as a trailblazer in the pro-life cause worldwide.

We also saw presentations from other SPUC staff highlighting other areas of the charity’s work from Fundraising, Communications, Policy & Legal through Advocacy & Development, Creative Cultural & Youth Development and SPUC’s Video Producer and Content Creator. From these we learned that grass roots membership of the charity had grown since the previous conference from 37’000 to 40’000 members and nine new branches have been formed in the past eighteen months.

We also gained knowledge about the remarkable initiatives undertaken in collaboration with schools, “LifeVoice” including partnering with a theatre company to create and stage compelling plays. Furthermore, the SPUC team has successfully executed a prestigious film project that has already garnered recognition and received an award at the esteemed Cannes Film Festival. In addition, SPUC is diligently working on producing comprehensive materials and resources for the Relationships & Sex Education curriculum, which will be implemented nationwide across Scotland in the upcoming academic year.

Conference workshops and sessions gave delegates opportunity to ask and share knowledge

The workshops proved to be highly educational, providing valuable insights for the delegates. The interactive nature of these sessions allowed participants to not only learn more about each other but also gain a deeper understanding of their collective endeavors in the pro-life movement. The SPUC staff skillfully facilitated branch development, engagement with local clergy, ARCH initiatives, and youth work, exhibiting utmost professionalism throughout. There were also stalls providing information and resources for various SPUC pro-life partners, campaigns and projects.

As the first in-person conference since 2019, there was a remarkable sense of camaraderie and fellowship among the delegates. Interestingly, two-thirds of the attendees were attending for the first time, reflecting the significant growth in membership and activism in recent months. The conference capacity had to be expanded three times to accommodate the overwhelming interest from those who wished to attend with the final total numbering 180 delegates from across the British Isles. Moreover, financial assistance was able to be provided to all those who needed help to attend. In addition to ✠Jerome other clergy were also present, including diocesan priests, the FSSP and Marian Franciscans.

Despite being a non-religious organization, SPUC brings together Christians from various denominations who share the pro-life cause in common. Throughout the event, attendees had the chance to participate in Masses and prayer services, including the Traditional Latin Mass with many delegates expressing their gratitude for the opportunity to experience the traditional Catholic liturgy for the first time. Meal times and evenings provided moments for fellowship and enjoyable entertainment. On the first evening, the audience was delighted by CEO John Deighan’s daughter’s singing and guitar performance, while the second night featured a lively Ceilidh with a live band and dance caller. Both the staff and delegates thoroughly enjoyed these occasions, allowing them to relax and engage in meaningful conversations.

John Deighan CEO and daughter with ✠Jerome and conference delegate, Alex Curley-Warren

The upcoming Youth Conference is scheduled for February, and there are plans to organize two or three one-day conferences in different regions. Additionally, many hope there will be another three-day conference in the near future. Delegates thoroughly enjoyed the chance to connect, engage in prayer, share meals, and catch up with one another, as well as interact with the SPUC staff. The conference venue proved to be exceptionally suitable for this kind of event. Overall, everyone expressed their satisfaction with the high quality and diverse food options provided during mealtimes, as well as the comfortable accommodations and helpful, friendly venue staff.

As the oldest and largest pro-life organization in the world, SPUC unequivocally demonstrated its professionalism and unwavering commitment to its charitable objectives. The caliber of their campaigns and projects, along with their flawless execution, left a lasting impression on all who attended. The Executive Committee, CEO John Deighan, and the entire SPUC staff deserve heartfelt congratulations for orchestrating an extraordinary event that will be etched in the memories of those fortunate enough to attend.

For more information about SPUC and its efforts for the pro-life cause, or to become a member visit www.spuc.org.uk

Concerning the “Ministers’ Consultation Response”

Update September 2023

✠Jerome will be discussing this matter at a Free Speech Union event on Tuesday, September 26th, at The Sussex Pub, St Catherine’s Terrace, Hove under the title,
“All protected characteristics are equal, but some are more equal than others”
together with fellow co-founders of PSHEBrighton, a support group for parents and allies concerned about the delivery of Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) and Relationships & Sex Education (RSE) in local schools.

Update July 2023

The Archbishop has instructed solicitors Doyle Clayton of One Crown Court, Cheapside, London to address a related matter concerning his “cancellation” as an elected Faith Representative for a Third Sector organisation in Brighton & Hove.

Doyle Clayton represents parents, students, teachers and professors in claims regarding discrimination, misconduct and bullying. Practice head Simon Henthorn is ‘professional, knowledgeable and kind – he can be robust when needed, but shows great compassion‘. Peter Daly, who joined from Slater and Gordon in early 2021, has represented clients in some high-profile cases regarding alleged harassment and intimidation over philosophical beliefs. Associate Amara Ahmad focuses on children’s law, specialising in advising on special educational needs and safeguarding.

The Legal 500

Update January 2023

✠Jerome welcomes and regards with interest the latest statement in Parliament made by the Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, of the UK Government’s intention to once more attempt to introduce legislation to ban “conversion therapy”. He particularly appreciates the concluding paragraph of the statement; “The legislation must not, through a lack of clarity, harm the growing number of children and young adults experiencing gender related distress, through inadvertently criminalising or chilling legitimate conversations parents or clinicians may have with their children.” He sincerely hopes that unlike last time, the new legislation will be clearer in language and terminology concerning the need to protect victims, prevent abuse and yet permit the normal course of authentic (i.e. harmless) religious praxis.

May 2022


At the end of 2021, ✠Jerome together with ‘Over 2500 Christian Ministers and Pastoral Workers’ signed a public response to the UK Government’s consultation on the then proposed ban of Conversion Therapies.

The “Ministers’ Consultation Response” (MRC full text in footnotes) took the form of a letter with an accompanying ‘background and analysis’ report. The letter expressed a concern that the then proposed Conversion Therapy Ban would (perhaps inadvertently) have the effect of criminalising some ‘normal practices of religion’ which many Christians follow regarding Biblical moral teachings.

At the conclusion of the consultation process in February 2022 and delivery of the MRC letter to Government offices, over 5000 signatories representing a wide spectrum of Christian denominations and ministries had signed it.

After the MRC letter was made public, several censorious comments regarding its content and notions were voiced, which led to the slanderous vilification of its authors as well as many of the Christian pastors and supporters who had signed it. Unfortunately, this has involved incorrect information about the objectives and motives of the signatories.


To counter misinformation, ✠Jerome would like to make the following points clear:

  1. He wholeheartedly supports a ban of “conversion therapy”.
  2. He signed the MRC letter because it represented a broadly traditional Christian perspective.
  3. It was his considered opinion that the proposed draft legislation was “not fit for purpose”.
  4. He did not sign the letter as Chair of Brighton & Hove Faith in Action. [See image below]


Ref Conversion Therapy

✠Jerome is a firm believer in one of the core values of Christianity, which is the capability of individuals to voluntarily embrace the religion, its teachings, and practices. He strongly believes in the concept of “the primacy of conscience”, which is the principle that an individual should act in accordance with their own conscience. To sum up, ✠Jerome does not approve of “conversion therapy” because it would be in conflict with his conscience and his faith, and he advocates for the banning of it.

Ref traditional Christian teaching

✠Jerome, as an orthodox Catholic bishop, holds to the traditional Catholic belief that the Sacrament of Marriage can only be shared between a male and female and that sexual activity is meant only for those who are married and for the purpose of having children. He does not pass judgement on those who have a different opinion or live a lifestyle that is not in line with traditional Christianity, or on other lawful types of partnerships. The Equalities Act 2010 gives ✠Jerome the right to uphold his beliefs and express them in public.

Not fit for purpose

When discussing the banning of “conversion therapy”, ✠Jerome expressed genuine apprehension about the draft legislation. The legislation could be interpreted in an imprecise manner and could be used to prosecute those educating Sunday School, Madrasa or Chinuch children, hosting homegroups or Bible Studies; providing pastoral support, relationships and marriage counselling; and providing confessional advice or conversion to Christianity or any other religion. ✠Jerome felt these concerns were addressed by the MRC letter while still condemning “conversion therapy”.

Other voices were also critical of the proposed legislation, among them LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, it stated “A ban on conversion practices that doesn’t cover both sexual orientation and gender identity protects nobody.” A concern echoed by Jayne Ozanne, a former Government adviser on LGBTQ+ issues who stated the Bill would create a “loophole of consent” which will continue to put “many lives” at risk. ✠Jerome was concerned that any new legislation should be properly and comprehensively devised. Weighing up the criticism from all ‘sides’ of the debate and considering the feasibility of the draft legislation, particularly with regard to implementation, he concluded that in his opinion it was “not fit for purpose”.

Ref Brighton & Hove Faith in Action

✠Jerome put his name to the letter in his capacity as a Christian pastor, it had nothing to do with his position with BHFA. His action did not breach the organization’s Equality & Diversity Policy nor any existing laws on equality and diversity, such as the Equalities Act 2010. BHFA is a multi-faith organization and does not represent the opinion of any one faith or all faiths. Its primary purpose is to promote good relations between faith groups and statutory agencies in the delivery of social action and community initiatives. ✠Jerome’s actions as a Christian pastor are independent from and should not be conflated with BHFA on any matter.


✠Jerome would highlight the emphasis in the second paragraph of the letter which stated and reflects his own attitude, approach and praxis pastorally;

“In our churches we welcome and show love to many people who have different experience and views, including same-sex attraction and forms of gender transition. We always seek to act in love, with gentleness and respect, for the good of all, and never with any form of coercion or control.”

The Ministers’ Consultation Response 2022

✠Jerome has a personal understanding of the kind of coercive control that is known as “conversion therapy” since he has experienced it himself. He shows true empathy and compassion for others who have been subjected to this kind of manipulation and cruelty, and would never support such practices or allow them to be done to anyone else. He knows that there have been, and still are, a number of destructive and harmful approaches that are considered to be “Christian ministry” and that are rightly considered to be “conversion therapy”. He recognizes the damage that these approaches can cause, and he is firmly against them continuing.

✠Jerome is adamant that people who have undergone “conversion therapy” should be given the opportunity to speak out about any emotional or mental abuse they may have experienced. He also implores other Christian leaders to give due attention to these stories and not fault the victims for the psychological pain they have endured. Additionally, he is of the strong opinion that any “Christian ministries” that attempt to disguise their damaging practices with euphemisms should be exposed and reprimanded.

All his life, ✠Jerome has been a passionate advocate of civil rights and freedoms. As a former student activist and trade unionist, he has been engaged in struggles for equality and diversity for over three decades. In his ministry, ✠Jerome has been particularly conscientious about applying these principles. In 2009, he walked an 80ft tightrope above the Zippos Circus Big Top to draw attention to The Sussex Beacon, a local HIV/AIDS hospice. Over the years, he has raised money for a variety of charities that attempt to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and other challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, such as mental health and sexual wellbeing.

Previously holding the position of Chair of Churches Together in Central Brighton and presently acting as Chair of Brighton & Hove Faith in Action, ✠Jerome has been striving to bring together people from different religious affiliations and denominations, particularly to work together to tackle social issues. He was an original founder of the Upstanders Network formed to enable people to detect and handle circumstances of prejudice and intimidation in public spaces. Additionally, he is a trustee of the Brighton & Hove Racial Harassment Forum, contributing significantly to creating solutions to assist victims of hate crimes based on faith or ethnicity.

✠Jerome has devoted his life to uniting various kinds of people to further the progress of society. He understands that differing backgrounds and outlooks are to be respected, not relativised. His long-standing commitment to inclusion, and to producing holistic answers to societal issues, is evident to those who have seen him in action. He is demonstrative of the fact that it is possible to hold traditional Christian values and still accept aspects of today’s world without being judgmental and bigoted.

✠Jerome hopes that this explanation would aid those who may have misinterpreted or mistakenly misjudged his purpose for signing the Ministers’ Consultation Response, to understand his stance on the issues and his repeated desire to see a clear and comprehensive legislative ban of “conversion therapy”.


The text of the Consultation document may be read here and a critique of it by the Evangelical Alliance here

An objective appraisal of the letter may be found here in response to criticism by the Anglican Bishop of Oxford

The actual text of the letter, information about the authors and the arguments sent to the Secretary of State may be read here:

✠Jerome’s signature as it appeared on the document