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18 May 2016

Press release

New extremism law is extremely dangerous for religious freedom

New extremism law is extremely dangerous for religious freedom

The Evangelical Alliance has cautioned against plans for new laws to tackle extremism, announced in today's Queen's Speech.

Head of public policy Simon McCrossan commented:

"It's extreme to try and tell religious groups what they can and can't teach under the guise of fundamental British values. It's extreme to threaten to send Ofsted inspectors into churches if they don't teach British values. This government's trying to fight extremism with extremism and the main casualty will be our fundamental freedoms.

"It's right that the government act decisively to address issues of terrorism and radicalisation that undermine the rule of law and attack our way of life in the UK.

"This should not be an excuse to clamp down on free speech and religious freedom. We are privileged to live in a plural society where we all get to play our part.

"We are deeply concerned that the definitions of 'extremism', especially the extension of 'non-violent extremism', threaten to trample on the freedoms that have been hard won, long enjoyed, and underpin our democracy. To date, the definitions are so broad there could be many unforeseen consequences to fundamental freedoms in our plural multi-faith society."

The Evangelical Alliance has previously spoken out against government plans to regulate out of school settings, and the threat of Ofsted inspections over a wide variety of clubs and societies, including churches that provide youth and children's work in every corner of the UK.

Reiterating the Alliance's concern, Mr McCrossan commented: "In pressing ahead with these plans the government are opting for Big Brother over the Big Society. There's a very real risk churches will feel pressured to step back from the valuable services they currently provide to children and young people across society.

"Whether intentional or not, this strategy looks like the wholesale nationalisation of youth work and the indirect state regulation of private religious practice – the very antithesis of a free liberal democracy. It is extremism."

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

  1. Spokespeople are available for comment.
  2. The Evangelical Alliance has consistently opposed government proposals to bring church based teaching under the purview of Ofsted – which will be the consequence of the proposals to regulate 'out-of-schools-settings'. We have mobilised, churches, organisations and individual Christians to make clear their opposition to these plans: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/evangelical-alliance-calls-members-to-respond-to-extremism-consultation.cfm.
  3. The Evangelical Alliance recently joined with other Christian organisations to press the government to drop the plans: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/media/press-releases/christian-charities-urge-opposition-to-government-plans-for-registration-and-inspection-of-church-youth-work.cfm
  4. While the Prime Minister and other government figures have repeatedly stated it is not their intent to regulate Sunday schools, they have failed to address the fact that this will be the effect of the proposals.

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.