The government’s planned anti-extremism orders are a legal and religious ‘disaster area’, Rev. Mike Ovey has warned.
Dr Ovey, a former parliamentary draftsman and lecturer at Oak Hill Theological College, said planned anti-extremism orders are a ‘disaster area’, both legally and from a religious perspective.
He made the comments to the Daily Telegraph on proposed Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) which are set to be part of new legislation. The proposed plans are so vague in scope that declaring Jesus is the only way to salvation could conceivably end up falling foul of them.
Shortly after the general election, Prime Minister David Cameron said the government was set to ‘turn the page’ on a ‘passively tolerant society’. Shortly after this, Home Secretary Theresa May denied once more that EDOs would catch out those who did not agree with, for example, same-sex marriage.
Dr Ovey criticised the EDOs from a legal perspective, as well as warning that his faith in Jesus Christ could lead to him being branded an ‘extremist’. He added: ‘As a lawyer I think it is a disaster area and as a Christian believer and teacher I think it is a disaster area. There has got be a better way to do it’.
Former MI5 director
Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, said, ‘You cannot protect democracy by taking powers which undermine the very foundation of democracy. EDOs and banning orders, promulgated in the name of “British values”, will fundamentally undermine the key British value of free speech’.
Earlier this year, ET petitioned Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake to question the government over the Conservatives’ plans. A response from the government said EDOs would not override the principle of free speech.
Meanwhile, also in the Telegraph, Jonathan Evans, a former director-general of MI5, warned about the consequences for freedom of speech under extremist orders.
He said, ‘In a secular, liberal democracy like ours, waging this sort of war of ideas is difficult and I have yet to come across a programme that is wholly convincing. The forthcoming Counter-Extremism Bill aims to crack down on extremism, but definitions will be crucial, and implementation of the new powers will be fraught with risk.
‘One can imagine already the powers being used against harmless evangelical street preachers or the like, out of misplaced zeal and a desire to demonstrate that they are not directed against one religion alone’.
Mr Hart added: ‘The Christian Institute has been warning for months that these vague proposals will be extremely damaging to free speech. Please pray this timely intervention pushes the government to sit up and take notice’.