Saturday, October 31, 2015

Is this the end of free speech?

Extremism disruption orders (also known as EDOs), which the UK Government is to include in a counter terrorism bill in the next month or two, are a cause for real concern.

Their premier target, of course, is Islamic terrorists. But they don't stop at attempting to deal with people planning to commit murder and wanton destruction.

The orders will allow courts to take action against people considered "on the balance of probabilities" to be "preaching, inciting, or justifying hatred on the grounds of disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and/or transgender identity." Innocent people could be caught up. Like people who disagree with same-sex marriage, or Christian street preachers. The mere risk of "causing distress" would be enough to trigger the new powers.

One MP said EDOs would deal with racists, religious fundamentalists and homophobes. They would "in some circumstances" be applied to a teacher teaching that homosexual marriage is wrong. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is reported to have said in a letter to a constituent that EDOs would go "beyond terrorism" and "eliminate extremism in all its forms."

In a typical Christian response, Voice for Justice UK says people who fall foul of these orders would include mild-mannered Christians who oppose same-sex marriage or gender reassignments, or who say that homosexuals unhappy with their sexuality have a right to therapy.

"How can Bible-believing Christians possibly be equated with Islamic hate-preachers inciting violent jihad?" they ask. "Christianity is a religion of love and of obedience to God - it is not part of a jihadist culture that will brook no alternative to its own value system and converts at the point of a gun.

"Mr Cameron is entirely wrong to manipulate the proposed legislation in order to ensure compliance with secular and LGBT ideology. It is not just wrong, but unnecessary. Christians are not the enemy."

This week the Christian Institute, which is well aware of the dangers, became unlikely partners with the National Secular Society and Peter Tatchell in launching Defend Free Speech - -  at the Houses of Parliament. They will challenge the Government to identify legitimate targets that are not already covered by existing law - like the Public Order Act 1986, the Terrorism Act of 2000, the Terrorism Act of 2006, the Serious Crime Act of 2007 and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act of 2014.

The Government has already done its best to make everyone agree with what it thinks are "British values."

The Government must not tell the church what to believe. And if it attempts to prevent someone expressing an opinion in public, we are on our way to a totalitarian state.

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