The Christian Institute is planning to lead a challenge to the government’s new “Extremism Disruption Orders” (EDOs) joining the National Secular Society in a campaign called Defend Free Speech.
The EDOs are similar to Tony Blair’s infamous Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), but target perceived extremist, rather that anti-social, behaviour.
The orders, which featured in the Tory manifesto, would allow police to apply to the High Court for the power to restrict the movement and freedoms of people they deem to be extremists.
At the beginning of August, Tory MP Mark Spencer, admitted: “EDOs… would apply to a situation where a teacher was specifically teaching that gay marriage is wrong.”
Simon Calvert, from the Christian Institute and spokesperson for the Defend Free Speech campaign, told Premier Christian Radio:
“I think there is in some parts of government a phenomenal ignorance about civil liberties and about religious freedom. They’re talking about having a list of state-approved religious leaders.
“These ostensibly are designed to help tackle the rise of terrorism, but the problem is from what we’ve heard so far from the government they’re going to be drafted so widely that they could actually be used to cut across the freedom of speech of all kinds of ordinary people…
“I think there is a genuine fear that Extremism Disruption Orders will be drafted so broadly you could end up with people you and I respect in the Christian community and having an EDO slapped on them.”
Defend Free Speech campaigners believe that anyone, from Trade Union members to environmentalists and public servants who disagree with the liberal orthodoxy – such as teachers unsure about same sex marriage – could be targeted
Lord Ahmad, Minister for Countering Extremism, said:
“The Government’s counter extremism strategy will not restrict anyone’s freedom of speech or right to practise their faith. These are two of the core values underpinning British society that extremists wish to undermine and which our strategy will seek to promote and protect.
“Our Counter-Extremism Bill will introduce measures focused specifically on protecting people from the most persistent extremist groups and individuals who promote hatred and stir up divisions within a community.
“We will use these powers in a highly targeted way to deal with a small number of individuals and organisations who we believe are the facilitators and catalysts for extremism, with strong safeguards so that the powers are only used where it is clearly in the public interest and approved by a court.”
Earlier this year, a Christian school in Durham was forced to close during the crackdown following the Trojan Hoarse scandal. Hardcore Salafi Islamists had infiltrated state schools in Birmingham, but the government chose to persecute a peaceful, otherwise tolerant Christian school hundreds of miles away.