Comment: EU referendum is one month away

By Colin Hart

Director, The Christian Institute

Today we are exactly one month from the EU referendum. Christians should consider carefully how to vote, while not losing sight of other vital issues.

In February, we highlighted that with so much media attention on the EU referendum the Government could try and slip through contentious legislation affecting gospel freedom.

New anti-extremism laws were announced in the Queen’s Speech last week – with a notable lack of debate and discussion.

At other times, intrusive Ofsted inspections of youth work and the threat to free speech and religious liberty from Extremism Disruption Orders would have received more attention.

The EU referendum touches on many important issues but we must also not ignore what else our elected representatives are doing at this time.

Important issue

First published on 24 February: The upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU is on many people’s minds right now. Clearly this is a profoundly important issue for the future of our country.

As a registered charity, the Institute cannot tell you how to vote. But we do encourage Christians across the UK to prayerfully consider their view and to cast their vote. Voting is a serious responsibility.

A proper understanding of Britain’s membership of the EU involves questions of nationhood and sovereignty, economics and trade, democracy and accountability, defence and international relations, as well as the implications for Christian freedom.

Vigilant

Many thousands of people, including Christians, are actively involved in arguing for one side or the other during the referendum campaign. It is right that as many people participate as possible.

But at the same time remember that too few people are calling the Westminster Government to account over its proposals for Ofsted ‘British values’ inspections of church youth work, or tackling the Scottish Government’s attempts to impose a state guardian for every child in Scotland.

We are very concerned that Government Departments could try to slip through highly contentious legislation which harms Christian freedoms while the media focus so heavily on the EU referendum. Christians need to be vigilant and ready to speak out against this.

Democratic freedom

The referendum will take place only four months from now. Time does not permit The Christian Institute to prepare a detailed, thorough, analysis of the pros and cons of EU membership without adversely affecting our ongoing work – like helping the McArthur family (owners of Ashers Baking Company) prepare for their vital appeal hearing or opposing the further liberalisation of Sunday Trading laws.

So let me again encourage you to make use of your democratic freedom and to vote on 23 June. But as you prayerfully consider how to vote, I would urge you not to lose sight of the many other issues in the next four months which could also have a lasting effect on our Christian freedoms.

First published on 24 February