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'Over-broad' extremism definition a threat to Christian groups - CARE

Freedom of Speech
18 March 2024
Michael gove conservative cabinet

Press release: The government's "over-broad" new extremism definition could unfairly catch Christian organisations, CARE has warned.

CARE's CEO Ross Hendry cautions that groups making "countercultural statements" could be blacklisted by officials who have a political agenda.

The government's revised definition of extremism, announced by Communities Secretary Michael Gove last week, says extremism involves:

"...the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to:

1. negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

2. undermine, overturn or replace the UK's system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

3. intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2)"

Ross Hendry, CEO of CARE, said:

“Extremism is a real threat to our society. The values of militant Islamists and far right groups are completely contrary to our democratic system and the Christian worldview. It is absolutely right that the spreading of lies, and racial and religious hatred is confronted.

“At the same time, the government’s new extremism definition must be closely scrutinised. Policies of this kind are notoriously fraught. There is always a danger that in trying to catch genuinely harmful behaviour, wider civil liberties are disproportionately undermined.

"The definition in question is over-broad. It uses the terms ‘hatred’ and ‘intolerance’, which could be interpreted very widely. There is some concern that mainstream Christian groups could be caught because of countercultural statements on issues such as abortion, sexuality, and trans ideology.

“Whilst the new definition will not have statutory force, the government will punish groups and publish a blacklist for all to see. There is a risk that campaigning individuals within government could unfairly seek to have certain groups proscribed for holding 'the wrong beliefs’.

“The government’s intentions are good, but its approach is problematic. There are good mechanisms in place to deal with dangerous groups and individuals. The police need to apply existing laws effectively, and consistently. We’d urge the government to focus on this key issue."


Notes for Editors

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) is a social policy charity, bringing Christian insight to the policies and laws that affect our lives.

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