Contentious plans to crack down on ‘extremists’ will be consulted on, the Government has said.
The Christian Institute and other groups have criticised Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) because of the Government’s broad definition of extremism.
In the Queen’s Speech today it was announced that legislation would be introduced to “tackle extremism in all its forms”.
The background notes to the speech said a new “civil order regime to restrict extremist activity” would be introduced, “following consultation”.
As part of a joint press release with supporters of the Defend Free Speech campaign, Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute, said: “The government’s approach to extremism is unfocused.
“Unless we can make them see sense, the range of people who could find themselves labelled ‘extremist’ by their own government is about to get a whole lot wider.”
The groups behind the press release noted that it is “still not clear how new legislation would deal with the problem of defining ‘extremism’ in a way that would not threaten free speech”.
“The continued lack of a clear definition risks outlawing any political expression that does not reflect mainstream or popular views”, they added.
“We call on the government to consult widely with all stakeholders, including civil society and minority groups, to ensure that a bill intended to tackle extremism does not undermine one of the values at the heart of democracy: that of free speech for all”, the press release concluded.
Earlier this year, a Home Office source said it is “not going to be easy or straightforward” to agree on the definition of extremism and “what needs to be protected as free speech”.
The Defend Free Speech campaign has been warning about the threat from the Government’s extremism proposals.
It highlighted that EDOs are intended to “restrict the activities of people the Government thinks are engaged in ‘extreme activities’ – even if they have not broken the law”.
A range of critics have warned that “innocent people will fall foul of the law for merely holding unpopular, traditional or challenging views”.
To find out more, go to defendfreespeech.org.uk.