A columnist has raised concerns that the Government’s Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) could bring in a “new and horrid intolerance” of people who oppose same-sex marriage.
Melanie McDonagh’s comments came after Conservative MP Mark Spencer told a constituent that EDOs “would apply in situations where a teacher was specifically teaching that gay marriage is wrong”.
Writing in The Spectator, Melanie McDonagh said she had been mistaken to ignore previous warnings that those who support traditional marriage, especially teachers, would be at a “disadvantage in public life”.
Oppose British values
She said that it now seems like she should “lose sleep” over the planned EDOs, if they are to be used to “gun” those who oppose British values.
In a letter to a constituent, Mr Spencer said that teachers were “perfectly entitled” to express their views on same-sex marriage, but only in “some situations”.
McDonagh said: “What might those be, then? In classroom debates rigged to ensure that the approved notion of ‘tolerance’ should always win? In the privacy of their homes? In social education classes, but only if they also give the party line that gay marriage is completely normal?”
McDonagh said that Spencer’s comments should “stimulate a rather vigorous debate about what, precisely, the extremism is that the new orders are designed to disrupt”.
She said, “I worry that Mr Spencer is not in fact a satirist, that he does actually mean it, and what started out as a well-meaning if, to my mind misguided, bid to put gay and straight relationships on a par has turned from an attempt at greater tolerance to a new and horrid intolerance”.
Responding to the MP’s letter last week, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute Simon Calvert said Spencer’s remarks reveal that teachers at Christian schools could be targeted by EDOs.
Mr Calvert said: “The Government say we’ve got nothing to worry about from their new extremism laws but here is one of their own MPs writing to a constituent saying EDOs would stop teachers teaching mainstream Christian beliefs.
“Doesn’t he realise the impact this would have on church schools?”
He concluded: “EDOs will be a gross infringement of free speech and undermine the very British values they claim to protect.”
EDOs have been widely criticised for raising the prospect of people falling foul of the law for merely holding unpopular, traditional or challenging views.