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World News

Christians wary of new UK extremism definition

by Lydia Davies

Christians in the UK are expressing unease over a proposed government update to the definition of extremism. The revised definition, drafted to combat extremist ideologies, has some worried it could unintentionally stifle traditional Christian beliefs.

The current definition set more than ten years ago, defines extremism as "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values".

According to government sources, the draft definition consists of three main strands. Firstly, it defines extremism as the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on intolerance, hatred, or violence that aims to undermine the rights or freedoms of others.

Secondly, it includes those seeking to undermine or overturn the UK's liberal system of democracy and democratic rights.

Lastly, it encompasses those who intentionally create a permissive environment for extremist ideologies.

The change would also mean groups or individuals deemed to be extremists can be excluded from government and council funding and barred from working with public bodies.

Ciaran Kelly, Deputy Director of the Christian Institute, voiced his concerns to Premier Christian News: "The worry lies in words like 'intolerance' and 'hatred,'" Kelly explained. "Sadly, today, many Christian views are labelled as such." He fears the new definition could be a tool to silence dissent, particularly on issues like same-sex marriage or women's access to certain facilities.

"I mean, sadly, we live in a day and age where many Christian views are regarded as intolerant or hateful."

He believes that "people are all too quick to throw these sorts of terms around. So we live in this society where, if you disagree with me, if I'm offended by the sorts of things that you say or believe, whether you say that or not, then that is hateful".

Some cabinet members fear that this move could lead to the prohibition of groups such as gender-critical feminists challenging transgender women's access to same-sex facilities or conservative Christian groups opposing gay marriage or abortion.

Miriam Cates, a Tory MP from the socially conservative wing of the party, said that broadening the definition of extremism was a "slippery slope to the abolition of fundamental freedoms" and a "path to authoritarianism".

"Some people think that gender critical views are 'extreme'. I think decriminalising abortion to birth is 'extreme'. Opposition politicians think the current government is 'extreme'. Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce and the suffragettes were all viewed as 'extremists'".

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has faced pushback from his party regarding the potential erosion of free speech and religious freedom.

The government, however, maintains the goal is to prevent a platform for extremist organisations, not to target lawful expressions of faith. They emphasised clear guidelines and engagement principles to ensure a balanced approach.

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