Govt extremism plans could affect Christian charities
Tue, 22 Sep 2015
The Government could remove trustees from Christian charities, including schools, across England and Wales if they are deemed ‘extremist’, according to leaked Government legislation.
The proposal, which appears in a draft version of the Government’s new counter-extremism strategy seen by The Sunday Telegraph, would give new powers to the Charity Commission to sack trustees.
It comes after a proposal to enact a “national register of faith leaders” was criticised as an attack on religious freedom not seen since the 17th century.
According to The Telegraph, the leaked draft states that “once the legislation is enacted, the Charity Commission will take action against all trustees who meet the definition of extremism set out in this document”.
The document defines extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations said: “We support powers to tackle extremism but we are concerned at how widely these measures could be interpreted.
“If the Government were to apply its definition of extremism would the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, be able to occupy the second-highest position of trusteeship in the land?”
Last week, The Sunday Telegraph leaked a Government proposal to subject pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders to Government training and security checks, and make them enroll in a “national register of faith leaders”, in order to work in the public sector.
Spokesman for The Christian Institute, Ciarán Kelly, said: “If the reports are accurate, what the Government is proposing turns the clock back on religious freedom more than 300 years.”
He added that the proposal means “Christian leaders invited to speak to a university Christian Union would be required to go on a Government approved training scheme before being allowed to speak to students.
“This is a truly sinister proposal more in keeping with China or North Korea than a democracy built on the freedoms of Magna Carta.
“We would ask the Government to think again and drop these dangerous plans immediately.”