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21 June 2017

Press release

Concern over extremism commission plans

Concern over extremism commission plans

Following the Queen's speech the Evangelical Alliance's head of public policy, Simon McCrossan commented on the government's proposal to establish a commission on extremism.

"The recent attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and most recently in Finsbury Park have focused all of our attention on how to stop these terrorist actions. The work of the police and security services has been rightly applauded and focus has inevitably turned to what more can be done.

"Proposals from the government to introduce an extremism commission raise more questions than they answer. The government has tried and failed in recent years to define extremism in a way that tackles terrorism and its causes without restricting freedom of ideas which may be unpopular or contentious. Violent extremism is a scar on our communities and a threat to our security, but it is not solved by shutting down peaceful freedom of expression.

"Last year, the Home Office minister Karen Bradley MP provided 10 different definitions of extremism to the Joint Committee of Human Rights. It is a matter for parliament to define with legal certainty what extremism is and, importantly, what it is not. The proposed commission must not become a means of bypassing democratic scrutiny and debate about an elusive term which potentially affects the human rights and civil liberties of all.

"Our existing laws include wide ranging powers to tackle terrorism and to prevent inciting violence: these need to be used to their full extent. The government has failed to show the gap in its legislative armour and are at risk of appearing to remedy the current situation with more powers that may do more harm than good.

"We hope that the powers of the extremism commission will be clearly defined, and that any definitions of extremism will be clearly the responsibility of parliament."  

Media Enquiries

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

Notes to Editors

  1. Simon McCrossan and Dave Landrum (director of advocacy) are available for interview
  2. The Joint Committee on Human Rights report on Counter-Extremism can be found here: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/105/105.pdf
    • § 107-108 contain criticism of the Government's attempts to define extremism: 'the Government gave us no impression of having a coherent or sufficiently precise definition of either "non-violent extremism" or "British values". There needs to be certainty in the law so that those who are asked to comply with and enforce the law know what behaviour is and is not lawful'.
    • The Committee also noted that, without a clear link to violence, all sorts of different beliefs could be defined as 'extremist', including religious and socially conservative views which have been freely expressed in this country for centuries.
  3. A video of Karen Bradley's definitions of extremism from the Defend Free Speech coalition can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YokYvURYvXY
  4. The last significant discussion of the definition of extremism in parliament was in Oral Questions in the House of Lords on April 26th, in answer to a question by Baroness Jones (found here https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2017-04-26/debates/AF6812B2-EF43-4CDD-866D-7810C8840151/TerrorismDomesticExtremism). In response to a supplementary by Lord Morris of Aberavon, who asked if extremism can ever be legally defined, Home Office Minister Minister Baroness Williams said: 'It will be legally defined when it is defined in law.'

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.