Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals for controversial Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) have quickly come under fire from politicians, free speech campaigners and newspapers.
David Cameron announced yesterday that he would push ahead with the plans, which are designed to tackle Islamic extremism, in the new Parliament.
The Christian Institute has warned that EDOs could have many unintended consequences.
The warning that EDOs may limit free speech was echoed by Conservative MP David Davis.
Mr Davis said: “Restricting free speech, and forcing those who hold views inimical to our own out of public debate and into the shadows, is an authoritarian act that will only serve to further alienate those who are susceptible to extremist views”.
Director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, Emma Carr, also raised concerns saying that “serious questions” must be asked about who will be targeted by the orders.
And yesterday, The Daily Telegraph cautioned that, “in trying to promote British values of democracy, the rule of law, tolerance and acceptance of different faiths, the Government should be careful not to water down further our most precious value, freedom of expression”.
The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Public Affairs, Simon Calvert, said: “While everyone applauds the principle of tackling Islamic extremism, comments by David Cameron and other senior members of the Government suggest EDOs will exceed even Labour’s notorious Racial and Religious Hatred Bill or Section 5 of the Public Order Act.”
Mr Calvert continued: “In the current climate, there is a real risk that EDOs will be used to clamp down on legitimate expressions of dissent.
“If the Government does not ensure that there are adequate safeguards then, because of the low burden of proof, it is perfectly plausible that comedians, satirists, campaign groups, religious groups, secularist groups, and even journalists could find themselves subject to these draconian measures.
Mrs May told a National Security Council meeting yesterday that institutions will be empowered to “challenge bigotry and ignorance”.
Mrs May maintained that freedom of speech will be protected.