A Christian group has warned that people opposing gay marriage could be criminalised as the government moves to redefine “non-violent Extremism” in a forthcoming bill.
The new counter extremism bill, to be presented in the Queens speech on May 18th, is said to be part of David Cameron’s “legacy programme” so he is remember for tackling the “struggle of a generation” against radical Islam.
It has been delayed, however, as legislators struggle to formulate a working definition of “extremism”.
Simon Calvert, deputy director of public affairs at The Christian Institute, has told Christian Today that an “overemphasis on what it calls non-violent extremism” could see Christians persecuted by the new law, too.
“Sadly when the government says it wants to promote British Values it seems to mean gay rights. Trying to force Christians to sign up to LGBT rights won’t do anything to stop Islamist terrorists murdering innocent civilians”, he insisted.
Explaining: “The government talks about tackling extremism and preventing people promoting hatred.
“If those words had their ordinary meaning Christians would have nothing to worry about but unfortunately they don’t. People routinely use the word ‘extremist’ to label Christians and they often falsely accuse them of hatred.
“If you put those two words into a statute how can you be sure they won’t be interpreted in that same overly broad way to capture innocent Christians simply going about the business of preaching the gospel and declaring the council of God?”
According to leaks seen by the Times, the bill will contain various measure to tackle sharia courts and radicalisation in prisons and care homes, as well as promising extra help to bring isolated British Muslims into the mainstream.
A Home Office source cited by the paper said: “Getting agreement about the thresholds for what constitutes extremism and what needs to be protected as free speech is not going to be easy or straightforward.”
The Guardian reports that the bill went through “dozens of drafts” over an eight-month period, as the government struggle to find a “legally robust” definition of extremism. The proposals were first trailed in last year’s Queen’s speech, but has still failed to appear.
Recent examples of views that the Extremism Bill would criminalise, given in an internal Home Office discussion, are said to include “hate messages” aimed at the armed forces or calls for the wholesale adoption of sharia in the UK.
According to the largest survey of British Muslims ever conducted, nearly a quarter would hold views that would be illegal. Channel 4 found that 23 per cent of Muslims support the introduction of Sharia law, rather than the laws laid down by parliament.
A smaller percentage of Christian are likely to hold views deemed illegal. But, if the bill includes opposition to same sex marriage, as the Christian Institute suggests, some will certainly be criminalised.
The finer details of the bill are not yet known, but it is understood that controversial so-called extremist disruption orders (EDOs) will be a central aspect.
Last year, the Christian Institute formed an unlikely campaign group with the National Secular Society and the Peter Tatchell Foundation to oppose EDOs, and which Mr. Calvert says would threaten free speech.
“We are united in our belief that free speech is a vital civil liberty and must be protected,” he said at the launch of their Defend Free Speech campaign group. “This legislation is badly conceived and will be bad for society.”