The following account appeared first in the Evangelical Baptist of February 1986 Rev. Fred Vaughan is pastor Beulah Baptist Church in Mississauga, Ont. And one of the three clergymen acquitted on the charge of mischief on February 10, 1986.
If anyone had told me a month ago that I would sit in a holding cell, one day, and speak to several men about Christ, I would never have believed him. But that is precisely what happened to me on Thursday, October 31, Hallowe’en – a hallowed day indeed for me.
I awakened early that Thursday morning and drove to Harbord Street in Toronto, where I parked my car in front of the Morgentaler abortuary. I picked up a short length of chain and padlock I had purchased the day before and proceeded down the lane to the alley leading to the rear gate of the clinic. In this abortuary ten to fifteen unborn babies are killed by illegal abortionists at least four days out of each week. My wife and I had taken our places in picket lines on several occasions during the past year, and we, along with a host of pro-life people, are becoming increasingly frustrated over the Government of Ontario’s refusal to close down this establishment, especially after the Supreme Court of Ontario with its five judges unanimously declared Morgentaler’s previous trial a mis-trial. He is, therefore, still convicted of procuring illegal abortions contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada, but is allowed to continue, without prosecution. Futhermore, his operation is protected night and day by the police, paid for by taxpayer’s money.
So here I was, at Morgentaler’s rear gate, with a police officer sitting in his cruiser watching my every move. Feeling that this flaunting of the law is the concern of all law-abiding citizens, I was convinced that this was the least I could do, to place a chain around the gate and lock it as a demonstration of my personal outrage at government inaction. Having made up my mind, I reached up to put the lock in place, only to have a well-set policeman accost me and tell me I was under arrest.
I protested that this was an illegal establishment, and seeing that the government had refused to close it, I had no alternative but to do what I felt I ought to do as a citizen of this province. The policeman took the chain and lock from me, escorted me to the police cruiser, and followed all the routine arrest procedures. By the time he had finished, I felt like I had just been arrested for murder. I must say, though, that the police officer was most supportive despite his official duty, and he said that he personally felt the abortuary would soon be closed down. How sad that such officers have to protect unlawful operations.
At the police station I was asked many questions, including, “Would you go back and padlock the fence again?” I said I could not guarantee what I would do as long as the illegal abortuary was allowed to operate. Here, too, I met with the utmost courtesy.
I was taken downstairs and conducted to a small cell. The officer used his key to open the iron-barred door and I stepped inside. This was my first experience of being an accused criminal and viewing the world from behind bars. I must say I didn’t feel too badly as I thought of the Apostle Paul who spent time in prison and the Russian Baptists who have spent years in the intolerable prisons of Siberia.
After a while the officer came and opened the door, informing me that I was about to be taken to court. I was handcuffed to a young man, and we were led away down the hall and out to the waiting police cruiser. We stepped inside and sat in the back seat which was separated from the front by heavy steel mesh. There were two officers in the front seats to conduct the accused to court!
When we arrived at the Old City Hall, we were taken to a small room where we were frisked and questioned as to the nature of our offence. One officer gave a look of disgust when he learned that I was another one who was involved in the Morgentaler issue. I was taken down a hall and ushered into a cell holding half a dozen young men in blue jeans and casual shirts. In my three-piece gray suit, white shirt and tie, and polished shoes, I had never felt so out of place in all my life.
The floor was about the dirtiest I had ever seen. The room was filled with smoke as men tried to calm their nerves with chain smoking. I thought it was just about the most dehumanizing place I had ever visited.
At first, I sat by myself and just studied the other inmates and my cell. I thought that my garb would completely seal off any chance of communication with these men, but after awhile exterior things didn’t matter and we began to mingle and share with one another. I found that behind the brash exteriors and the foul language, there were young men who were extremely frightened and depressed. When I was alone with some of these fellows I had the opportunity of sharing with them the hope that there is in Christ. What a golden opportunity to sit right in the cell with these men, one of them, sharing the good news of forgiveness and hope with some who had lost their way. As I talked, I realized that this was one reason why God overruled that I should go through with everything that day.
Soon I was called to see my lawyer, Mr. Paul Dodds, who works with Campaign Life, a pro-life lobby group in Toronto. Paul told me that he had spoken to the Crown and they were going to drop the conditions for my release, as they were intent on keeping me out of jail. I would simply sign a statement that I would appear in court the following Thursday. They had also changed the charge. The original charge, Section 387, Subsection C, of the Criminal Code states that public mischief was “to obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.” Since my defence was that Mr. Morgentaler was using his property unlawfully and I, consequently, had a right to interfere, they felt they did not have a good case. So the charge was changed to another section dealing with “mischief” but which omits the wording “lawful use.”
Finally I was called into the small courtroom where bail conditions are ruled on and trials are set. I was informed that I would appear the next Thursday, November 7, in Room 111, to appear before a judge and to have my hearing date set.
I came home that night with mixed feelings. My heart went out as never before to young men who have gotten into trouble and who must go through the dehumanizing process of the courts and dirty holding cells filled with smoke and foul language. So many are in trouble with the very drugs and alcohol that are so glamorized on television. And young lives are possibly ruined that could be saved if someone could only share with them God’s forgiveness and love.
I appreciated as never before the efforts of prison ministries such as the Salvation Army and Prison Fellowship started by former convict, Church Colson of U. fame, and others like the Gideon’s who are bringing good news to souls in despair.