11 December 2015
Government's Counter Extremism Strategy poses a serious threat to religious freedoms as call for evidence opens
The government's Counter Extremism Strategy poses a serious threat to religious freedoms as call for evidence opens.
Government plans to defend British values and "systematically confront and challenge extremist ideology" would undermine the very democracy that they seek to protect.
The Evangelical Alliance is calling for members to submit evidence on the Counter Extremism Strategy now, as the consultation closes on 11 January 2016.
Many out-of-school education settings, including, churches, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, home schoolers, volunteers and anyone else who comes into contact with children could be inspected by Ofsted as a result of proposed anti-extremism legislation.
Dr David Landrum, advocacy director of the Evangelical Alliance, said:
"These proposals are of deep concern. The call for evidence has been opened at the busiest time of year for Christians and could easily go unnoticed with Christmas fast approaching. We urge our members who are involved in the tuition, instruction or training to those under-19, to submit evidence to the consultation as a matter of urgency.
"Whether intentional or not, this strategy could be interpreted as the wholesale nationalisation of youth work and the indirect state regulation of private religious practice – the very antithesis of 'The Big Society' and a free liberal democracy."
The Evangelical Alliance recognises the challenges to government of finding a balance between providing security and protecting freedoms. It is right that we act decisively to address the issues of radicalisation and terrorism that undermine the rule of law and attack our way of life in the UK, the organisation adds.
The charity that represents the UK's two million evangelical Christians highlights that the definitions of 'extremism' - particularly 'non-violent extremism' - in the strategy appear so broad that they could lead to many unforeseen consequences, such as the erosion of fundamental freedoms within our multi-faith democracy.
Traditional views on marriage, sex and education could be put under threat if these plans are allowed to be sail through unchecked.
Dr Landrum concluded: "We welcome the acknowledgement from the prime minister that defeating extremism in all its forms is not something that can be done alone.
"We believe that religious liberty is for all. We urge the government to consult and work with faith groups to address extremism and to ensure that any bill tackling extremism doesn't threaten the freedoms of the innocent."
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Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.