Proposed changes to UK legislation on terrorism and extremism could threaten, rather than protect, religious freedom.
Following pro-Hamas protests across the UK, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is working on a new definition of the term extremism, and considering a renewed focus on ‘British values’.
Reports suggest the new definition could include groups and individuals whose behaviour helps “create a climate conducive to terrorism, hate crime and other violence”.
The Home Office is considering changes to terrorism legislation. Michael Gove’s officials are drawing up a new definition of extremism and considering a renewed focus on the concept of ‘British values’.
But Christians need to be wary. We’ve been here before. All too often, new laws supposed to be aimed at terrorism or extremism end up threatening rather than protecting religious freedom.
Just consider the way ‘British values’ requirements were applied in schools. Ofsted’s British values inspections have been used to force religious schools to teach same-sex marriage or potentially face closure! British liberal 'values' are 'woke'.
Or take 2001’s Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. The original Bill included an incitement to religious hatred offence that could have criminalised Christian teaching about the uniqueness of Christ.
We have also seen repeated arrests of Christian street preachers for 'offending' non-Christians and speaking of the Bible's position on homosexuality. Most of these cases have fallen through, but any strengthening of the defence of modern British 'values' such as enthusiasm for all things LGBTQ would pose a serious threat to Bible-true preachers.
So when we hear that a new definition of extremism is being developed that will “go further than the current definition”, alarm bells should be sounding. The existing definition – using the term “fundamental British values”, which includes the liberal obsession for "tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” – has already been problematic in schools, as we’ve seen.
The alarm bells should get even louder when we’re told the new extremism definition will “encompass more groups and individuals whose behaviour falls short of terrorism but helps to ‘create a climate conducive to terrorism, hate crime and other violence’”.
Defining extremism to include ‘creating a climate conducive to hate crime’ would be profoundly concerning in a context where a world-famous author can be branded a hatemonger simply for opposing self-ID sex changes.
And that ‘creating a climate’ language draws on a 2021 report co-authored by Mark Rowley. It advocated tackling “hateful extremism” and included calls to lower the thresholds of incitement to religious hatred laws. On past form, the British state will be quick to use such rules to gag those who criticise Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and other false religions, but tardy indeed in using them to protect the One True Faith.