Four threats to religious liberty from extremism agenda

Dear supporter,

The Westminster Government’s extremism agenda is leading to at least four different threats to our Christian freedoms.

Prime Minister Theresa May used a major speech in the USA recently to boast that the UK has “led the world” in its plans to “address the whole spectrum of extremism”.

1. Out-of-school settings plans

Of all her Government’s proposals, sending Ofsted into churches to inspect youth work is probably the most alarming for Christians.

Schools Minister Lord Nash has revealed that there were 18,000 responses to the consultation on these plans for ‘out-of-school settings’. We believe most of them came from Christians.

They have certainly given the Government pause for thought. Lord Nash told the House of Lords on 11 January that the Government is “determined to regulate in this area” but needs to “tread carefully because many of these organisations are small, open for only a few hours a week and staffed by volunteers”. The Welsh Government has similar plans.

2. ‘British values’ inspections

Whatever your view of Brexit, there is no doubt that it is significantly slowing down the rest of the Government’s legislation, including its plans for out-of-school settings. However, Ofsted is continuing to menace Christian and Jewish schools with its ‘British values’ inspections.

Over the past couple of years, Ofsted inspectors have caused the most widespread problems for religious liberty in England, with aggressive questioning of teachers and pupils over their beliefs, for example on same-sex marriage and transsexualism. We are continuing to help those affected.

3. Equality oath

Thank you to everyone who has contacted their MP about the proposed equality oath for public office holders. It is the equality agenda which has marginalised Christians in recent years – Ashers Baking Company, for example.

The idea of forcing councillors, school governors and others to swear an oath to promote ‘British values’ could be used to purge Christians from public life.

The proposal came recently from ‘integration tsar’ Dame Louise Casey. The Government has promised to set out its response in the Spring.

The general idea of promoting ‘British values’ may find favour with many people, but we should remember that the Government uses inconsistent and very vague definitions of ‘British values’, which are open to conflicting interpretations.

4. Extremism Disruption Orders

It looks like the problem of defining ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’ is causing real difficulty for the Government’s ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ (EDOs).

According to media reports, the Bill containing EDOs and related measures may not even be introduced to Parliament because of fears of defeat in the Lords, or rejection by the courts, on free speech grounds.

We are cautiously optimistic, but will continue to closely monitor developments for you.

Primary school sex education for England?

MPs who support a more liberal approach to sex education are expected to push for amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, which will soon reach Report Stage in the Commons.

The Department for Education continues to be under huge pressure to impose sex education on all primary schools in England and take control of the curriculum away from local schools. Education Ministers have said they are “considering all the options” and have not yet announced what they will do. Please pray that attempts to change the current law will fail.

Campaign in Wales to protect parents

The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has pledged to ban smacking in Wales. This would criminalise loving mothers and fathers, potentially leaving them with a criminal record. It would deluge police and social workers with trivial incidents, while cases of real child abuse get lost in the system.

A ban would also apply to any families visiting Wales on holiday. We are preparing to support a new campaign in Wales to vigorously oppose the First Minister’s plans.

Named Person scheme

In Scotland we are continuing to back the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign and supporters in Northern Ireland will soon receive a briefing about the upcoming Assembly election there.

As you can see, our staff are hard at work on many vital issues. If you are able to make a financial donation at this time, we would by very grateful. Above all, we value your ongoing prayers for these profoundly important matters.

Yours in Christ,
Colin Hart
Colin Hart
The Christian Institute