Broad ‘extremism’ definition risks clampdown on Christian beliefs

The Government is expected to announce plans to widen its definition of extremism to include those who are deemed to ‘undermine British Values’.

Following the Prime Minister’s pledge to tackle “acts of violence” against Jews and Muslims, Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove is due to outline plans to block groups deemed to be ‘extremist’ under the new definition from accessing venues or public funding.

According to The Times, senior Whitehall figures are warning that the changes are “legally fraught” and will “provoke tensions” with gender critical groups and religious groups who campaign against issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.


The Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly said: “Legitimate attempts to tackle violence on our streets must never pave the way to banning opinions which are deemed unpopular or old-fashioned.

“All too often, new measures against terrorism or extremism end up endangering rather than protecting religious freedom. We saw this only too well when Ofsted inspectors investigating ‘British Values’ threatened to close Jewish schools if they didn’t teach children about same-sex marriage.

“This may not have been intended, but sadly it was the result. No innocent person, Christian or otherwise, should be endangered by vague legislation which threatens our historic liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

‘Woke crusade’

Writing on X, Christian MP Miriam Cates said: “This is a slippery slope towards the abolition of fundamental freedoms. What does it even mean to ‘undermine British values’ when there is no consensus – and certainly no legal definition – of what those values are?”

“Worth noting that attempts to enforce ‘British values’ in schools have led to a woke crusade where what many consider to be ‘extremist’ views on sex, gender & race have taken precedence over biological & historical fact and where teachers & pupils are frightened to speak out.”

Lord Frost agreed, saying: “What we need is proper enforcement of the laws we have against, for example, incitement to violence.”

The Telegraph’s Sam Ashworth-Hayes added: “It’s worth remembering that schemes like this are drawn up with Islamists in mind, and then staffed by civil servants who think opposition to self-ID is a hate crime.”



The Prime Minister has also pledged to “redouble support” for the Government’s Prevent programme, which has been widely criticised for focusing on ‘non-violent extremism’.

In 2015, an Institute-backed campaign won an important victory when the Government dropped the key section of Prevent guidance which threatened the free speech of university Christian Unions.

Draft guidance had said that university societies in Britain would be forced to hand over external speakers’ talks two weeks in advance for vetting. But the Government introduced an amendment which requires universities to give “particular regard” to freedom of speech when fulfilling their duty under Prevent.

The little book of non-violent extremists (updated)

The little book of non-violent extremists (updated)

This little booklet makes the big point that some non-violent ‘extremists’ turn out to be heroic people of global significance. The Government’s Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove MP, has published a new definition of extremism. At its lowest threshold, it includes promoting an ‘intolerant’ ideology that aims to “negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”. Our little list of heroes could easily have been accused of breaching this threshold if it was in place in their day.

Also see:

‘Knee-jerk reaction to extremism threatens free speech’, says Govt’s top terror advisor

CI: ‘New extremism definition could pose threat to religious freedom’

Chaplain reported to anti-terror unit for challenging LGBT ideology will appeal case

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