Plans to combat ‘extremists’ could hamper freedom to speak out on issues like same-sex marriage, Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi has argued.
Qureshi, a trained lawyer, said she received many letters from Christians during the passage of the same-sex marriage legislation, which expressed an orthodox religious view on the issue.
Individuals “should be able to say something like that”, she told the World at One, warning that proposals for Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) could be used shut down such debate.
But Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi backed the plans, repeating David Cameron’s call for people to “be intolerant of intolerance”.
EDOs are expected to place restrictions on individuals or organisations who “spread, incite, promote or justify hatred” against others on a number of grounds, including religion, sexual orientation and transsexualism.
The Christian Institute, the National Secular Society and The Guardian newspaper have all criticised the broad nature of the proposals.
In a BBC Radio 4 interview, Qureshi drew attention to existing laws, such as the Public Order Act, which already cover inciting violence and hatred. She said that because of such laws the new provisions are unnecessary.
She noted that Christians, Jews, Hindus and others might have conservative views on sexuality, but that is very different to committing acts of violence.
While the EDOs have yet to be fully laid out in legislation, David Cameron has said the Government wants to end this country’s “passively tolerant society” where “as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”.
Last month a former Parliamentary draftsman commented that the Government is saying, “trust us with your civil liberties”, but “human experience tells us the last thing you ever want to do is trust a government with your civil liberties”.
Revd Dr Mike Ovey, who worked as a lawyer before his current role as a leader of Oak Hill theological college, criticised EDOs from both perspectives.
He said: “As a lawyer I think it is a disaster area and as a Christian believer and teacher I think it is a disaster area.
“There has got be a better way to do it.”