Anyone who criticises same-sex marriage or Sharia law could be branded an “extremist” under proposed new powers, Christians and atheists have jointly warned.
The fresh expression of concern comes from The Christian Institute and the National Secular Society who have raised fears over planned Extremist Disruption Orders (EDOs), recently outlined by Home Secretary Theresa May.
EDOs, which are designed to counter Islamic extremism, have been described as a threat to free speech and reminiscent of Tony Blair’s notorious religious hatred Bill.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, cautioned that Christians who criticise gay marriage or even argue that all religions are not the same could find themselves accused of extremism.
Mr Calvert said: “Anyone who expresses an opinion that isn’t regarded as totally compliant with the Equality Act could find themselves ranked alongside Anjem Choudary, Islamic State or Boko Haram”.
He added: “How many times a day do intellectually lazy political activists accuse their opponents of ‘spreading hatred’?
“The left does it, the right does it, liberals do it, conservatives do it, it is routine.
“Hand a judge a file of a thousand Twitter postings accusing this atheist or that evangelical of ‘spreading hatred’ and they could easily rule that an EDO is needed.
“It’s a crazy idea – the Conservatives need to drop this like a hot brick.”
Speaking to The Telegraph Online Keith Porteous Wood, Director of the National Secular Society, warned that secularists might be branded “Islamophobic” and “racist” because of their campaigns against the rise of Sharia law.
He agreed that the Government should have “every tool possible” to tackle extremism but pointed out that there is a “huge arsenal of laws already in place”.
Porteous added that, “a much better case needs to be made for introducing draconian measures such as Extremist Disruption Orders, which are almost unchallengeable and deprive individuals of their liberties”.
The EDOs were unveiled ahead of the Conservative Party conference and are set to be in their manifesto for the May General Election.
Theresa May said she wants action to be taken against people who seek to “spread, incite, promote or justify hatred” against others on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation and transsexualism.