Christians in Wales have been urged to contact their politicians about Welsh Government plans to register and inspect church youth work.
Charities, including The Christian Institute and the Evangelical Movement of Wales, made the call, describing the Government plans as an “unjustified restriction of religious liberty”.
CARE, Christian Concern, Evangelical Alliance and Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship added their voices to the warning, in a joint statement from the six organisations.
The Welsh Government is proposing to register and inspect church youth work to ensure children are learning “tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” and being protected from “undesirable teaching”.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “There is no place for a state regulator of religion in Wales. The vital work of churches across Wales with young people is worthy of respect.
“Rather than seeking to interfere and undermine churches the Welsh Government should be looking to support such work as much as they can.”
General Manager for the Evangelical Movement of Wales Gareth Edwards stated that the need to tackle extremism and safeguard children was important.
“However”, he added, “we do not believe Government inspectors should police Christian youth work, and consider the subjective nature of some of the proposed criteria, such as ‘tolerance’, to be too vague and open to abuse”.
Speaking for the Evangelical Alliance, Simon McCrossan said the plans would “do little” to protect children from extremism, and threaten religious freedoms.
The joint statement warned that requiring churches to register before they are legally allowed to help children learn Christian values is “an unjustified restriction of religious liberty”.
It adds that while the Welsh Government says churches will be inspected for compliance with its ‘fundamental values’ if there is a complaint, the scope for “vexatious complaints is considerable”.
“The prospect of inspectors questioning volunteer leaders and children (without their parents) is an unwarranted incursion into private religion and family life”, the organisations stated.
They said that Christians are law-abiding citizens and a major source of volunteering: “To require such people to submit to registration and inspection to ensure they are not engaged in ‘undesirable teaching’ is profoundly misconceived.”