This year’s Queen’s speech included plans to ‘tackle extremism’ which critics have warned could be used to “clamp down on legitimate expressions of dissent”.
Earlier this month, The Christian Institute warned that Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) will seriously damage free speech and could have many unintended consequences.
EDOs, which were announced by Home Secretary Theresa May last year, have already come under fire from commentators from across the political spectrum.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, has stressed that the orders could be used to target many groups in society, including Christians.
He said: “The Christian Institute warns the Government not to rush through these measures, but to engage with groups with a track record of defending free speech.
“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.”
In an editorial last year, The Independent newspaper said May’s plans “lean too far in the direction of authoritarianism” and would “hack away” at freedom of speech.
The Guardian newspaper described the likely effect as “dangerous”, and said the proposed orders are “not just illiberal but counterproductive”.
And writing for the Telegraph online, commentator Padraig Reidy described the powers as “far too vague”.
This year’s Queen’s Speech also outlined plans for a psychoactive substances Bill, which would completely outlaw the sale of legal highs.
The Government has banned hundreds of legal highs since 2010, but has struggled to stop manufacturers in other countries from modifying the molecular structures and creating new forms of the drugs.
The new Bill will ban substances based on their impact on the brain. If it passes, the Bill will outlaw all attempts to produce, sell or supply legal highs.