Tory manifesto ‘extremism’ pledge “a risk to civil liberty”
A leading UK Christian group has warned that counter-extremism plans contained in the Conservative Party manifesto could lead to dangerous censorship of public debate.
The Christian Institute, a Tyneside-based charity, says the Conservatives have “a lot of questions to answer” about their plans for a ‘Commission for Countering Extremism’.
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 turning into some pound shop version of the French Revolutionary ‘Committee of Public Safety’, denouncing people for not holding the ‘correct’ views.
“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. It’s no good filling it with politically correct zealots, fresh from no-platforming Germaine Greer, using their new powers to denounce their ideological opponents.
“Government lawyers will need to warn committee members that using the nebulous and indefinable 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 insist on using it to smear anyone who disagrees with them.
“We’ve already seen a series of witch-hunts against people with traditional views. And there are plenty of commentators and civil servants who already see mainstream, orthodox Christian views as dangerous.
“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.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.
For media enquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson of Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on 07970 162225 or 0203 008 8145, or Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute.
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