The Christian Institute has warned that counter-extremism plans contained in the Conservative Party manifesto could lead to dangerous censorship of public debate.
The Institute says the Conservatives have “a lot of questions to answer” about their plans for a ‘Commission for Countering Extremism’.
The manifesto was released yesterday ahead of the General Election on 8 June.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “We welcome the fact that the manifesto steps back from the previous commitment to bring in controversial ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’. And everyone agrees we should focus on violent extremism.
“But what you can’t have is this Commission for Countering Extremism denouncing people for not holding the ‘correct’ views.
This Commission on extremism might make a bad situation a whole lot worse.
“If the Conservatives do form the next government and they press ahead with this Commission, they’ll have to be very careful about who they appoint and what their mandate will be.”
Commission on extremism
Mr Hart continued: “Government lawyers will need to warn committee members that using the vague concept of ‘extremism’ on its own as a basis for taking away freedoms is a serious risk to civil liberty.
“The word ‘extremist’ has been robbed of all meaning by activists who use it against anyone who disagrees with them. We’ve already seen a series of witch-hunts against people with traditional views.
“This Commission on extremism might make a bad situation a whole lot worse.
“People labelled extremists in their own day include Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wilberforce and the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
“Today, people like Germaine Greer and Dame Jenni Murray are vilified for ‘extreme’ views on transsexualism that actually represent the views of the great majority of people.”
All the main GB parties are assessed within The Christian Institute’s Election Briefing 2017.
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Election Briefing 2017 and other resources for the General Election 2017 are available at christian.org.uk/election and can be ordered from The Christian Institute on 0191 281 5664, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.