08 June 2016
‘Ludicrous’ to use Prevent to stop Christians Unions says Prime Minister
The prime minister today branded the misuse of the Prevent Duty to stop a Christian Union meeting at a sixth form college as "ludicrous", saying this is "clearly not what was intended".
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and a member of the Evangelical Alliance's Council, raised the issue at Prime Minister's Questions, one week ahead of the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast.
David Cameron responded to Bruce's concerns saying: "I'm very sorry I'm not going to be able to attend the prayer breakfast as I know it is a very good event that brings a lot of people together and means a lot to Christians around the country.
"The point she makes about the prevent duty being misused, I haven't heard of that exact example, but it's clearly ludicrous and people do need to exercise some common sense in making these judgement as it's quite clearly not what was intended."
The Evangelical Alliance welcomes this acknowledgement of how government powers have been misused.
Ahead of the publication of the Safeguarding and Counter Extremism Bill in the coming months, Simon McCrossan from the Evangelical Alliance called for more common sense in government decision making.
McCrossan, head of public policy at the Alliance, said: "We all have to play our part in tackling terrorism and violent extremism, but common sense is exactly what is needed by the government. Churches and Christian groups play a vital and valued role in every part of our plural society. The government needs to act to encourage this rather than put it at risk."
"It's time for them to abandon proposals to register and inspect Sunday schools, and recognise their proposals do more to squash religious liberty than protect our country.
"It's ludicrous to think that inspecting church settings is the answer to tackling terrorism, and we look forward to more common sense from David Cameron when the Bill is published."
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Notes to Editors
- Fiona Bruce raise the issue in parliament following a story in the Sunday Times, 5 June 2016: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/college-outlaws-christian-prayer-meetings-under-extremism-rules-qsrmd07sd
- The exchange is available to view at: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/362ea88a-2a86-45d1-8afb-943e795a3fd3?in=12:30:16&out=12:31:17
- The full exchange:
"Next week the annual national parliamentary prayer breakfast will take place here in Westminster Hall when 600 community and faith leaders and over 100 MPs will gather.
"Yet also this week we hear of a Christian union being banned from holding prayer and bible study meetings purportedly on the grounds of the government's anti-terrorism prevent strategy. Does the Prime Minister agree that such action was never the purpose of a strategy intended to address terrorism and extremism?"
"Of course what my honourable friend says is right, I'm very sorry I'm not going to be able to attend the prayer breakfast as I know it is a very good event that brings a lot of people together and means a lot to Christians around the country
"The point she makes about the prevent duty being misused, I haven't hear of that exact example, but it's clearly ludicrous and people do need to exercise some common sense in making these judgement as it's quite clearly not what was intended."
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.