A prominent commentator has warned that the Government’s counter-extremism plans could erode religious freedom in the UK.
Influential blogger Archbishop Cranmer added his voice to mounting criticism of the Government’s proposals to issue Extremism Disruption Orders to people who oppose ‘fundamental British values’.
Cranmer raised concerns that the state’s definition of British values includes “the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”, which could curb religious freedom.
Coerced and compelled
He asked: “What is this ‘respect’ imposed by the state which coerces and compels ‘a positive feeling of admiration or deference’ for a person (/entity/religion)?
“How can the state constrain or suspend the freedoms of belief, speech and expression to the extent that all must manifest ‘a positive feeling of admiration or deference’ for cultic sky fairies, idols, false prophets or spiritual fetishes?”
Freedom of religion includes the right not only to have a faith, but to manifest it and propagate it and witness to it in the public arena, if desired.Archbishop CranmerBlogger
The blogger pointed out that the most fundamental British value is religious liberty, “our historic, bothersome and hard-won birthright”.
“Freedom of religion includes the right not only to have a faith, but to manifest it and propagate it and witness to it in the public arena, if desired.
“It also includes the right to change beliefs and religious affiliation, if desired. This is what liberal democracies should proclaim and propagate throughout the world”, he added.
Archbishop Cranmer concluded that loving our neighbour is not the same as respecting other gods or tolerating other beliefs.
“The Church must robustly remind the State of the true foundation of British values and the essential cornerstone of our liberty – before we are all obliged to profess positive feelings of admiration for the prince of the power of the air, and bow the knee to the father of lies.”
This week a new campaign supported by The Christian Institute, the National Secular Society and the Peter Tatchell Foundation has been launched to oppose the Government’s plans for EDOs.
The website defendfreespeech.org.uk gives up-to-date information about the campaign, and helps people to lobby their MP about the proposals.