New measures to curb hate preachers could be a ‘disaster area’ for mainstream religions, says head of top Anglican theological college
Traditional Christian teaching could effectively be “criminalised” in some settings under David Cameron’s plans for new anti-extremist banning orders, a top Anglican theologian and former Parliamentary draftsman has warned.
The Rev Dr Mike Ovey, a former lawyer and now principal of Oak Hill Theological College in London, a training school for Church of England clergy, said proposals for new “Extremism Disruption Orders” could be a “disaster area” for people from all the mainstream religions and none.
Mr Cameron and Theresa May have signalled that the new orders, planned as part of the Government’s Counter-Extremism Bill, would not curb the activities of radical Islamist clerics but the promotion of other views deemed to go against “British values” even if it is non-violent and legal.
Ministers have defined British values in the past as including broad notions like democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.
In a speech last month Mr Cameron said that for too long Britain had been a “passively tolerant society” in which people were told “as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”.
Dr Ovey warned that unless the criteria are tightly defined, the orders could be used against almost anyone and would have “chilling effect” on preachers and even call into question the curriculum of colleges such as his.
Even basic Christian tenets, such as the belief that Jesus is the son of God, could be deemed to offensive to other religions and branded un-British, he said.
It would also be easy to argue that there was a “clear trajectory” between, for example, teaching mainstream Christian ideas about subjects such as abortion and the actions of violent and-abortion groups, he added.
Dr Ovey, who worked as a parliamentary draftsman in the 1980s when anti-terror legislation to deal with the IRA threat was being framed, said: “They are going to say this is far-fetched and will never happen.
“That is essentially a government saying trust us with your civil liberties.
“I would say frankly human experience tells us the last thing you ever want to do is trust a government with your civil liberties.”
“The Government is going around saying it is all a time of national emergency.
“I think I want to say we have been there before and got the T-shirt. It doesn’t work.”
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SOURCE: The Telegraph