Tory ‘anti-extremist’ plan a danger to free speech, says The Christian Institute
Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday announced plans which have alarming implications for free speech.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: “These new proposals look set to far exceed even Tony Blair’s notorious Religious Hatred Bill in their scope.
“Theresa May wants to create ‘Extremist Disruption Orders’ (EDOs) to silence people who have not committed any crime. Under these draconian plans, the police will be able to apply for a court order to restrict ‘harmful activities’.
“This looks like a gagging order, triggered by anything deemed to breach the tenets of the Equality Act. It’s not hard to see how this could be misused against Christians.
“Earlier this year the Government was prevented from outlawing people being ‘annoying’ in public. And it’s less than a year since changes to Section 5 of the Public Order Act were finally made to prevent prosecutions against people deemed to have ‘insulted’ someone. Prior to this we saw many cases of innocent Christians being arrested or unfairly treated by over-zealous or misinformed police officers.
“On both occasions, the over-broad powers were stopped by the House of Lords, with the Government suffering huge defeats.
“It seems the Home Secretary is again trying to take draconian powers to regulate free speech.
“There are already extensive anti-extremist powers available to the authorities, but they are not being fully used. For example, the Government is turning a blind eye to Sharia courts. The law already protects against incitement, harassment and violence. But the law should also uphold free speech. It should not be used to suppress legitimate religious freedoms.
“This is a very dangerous proposal. Of course we support Government efforts to combat the Islamist threat but the extremists will win if we sell out our civil liberties along the way. The Home Secretary’s proposals fly in the face of her very public espousal of ‘British values’. Freedom of expression is an essential freedom for any democratic society.”