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UK churches condemn anti-boycotting bill

by Sophie Drew

A bill banning public bodies from boycotting foreign policy investment decisions made by the UK Government, has been widely condemned by a number of church denominations. 

The Methodist Church, Quakers in Britain and the United Reformed Church have spoken out against the proposed legislation. 

The bill would mean local authorities and councils, would be unable to make their own choices regarding investment and procurement, and would have to follow foreign policy legislation. 

Signatories to the statement, who include Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, say that the new law would stop the use of the tactics, that helped liberate South Africa from apartheid, stifling 
campaigns from fossil fuel divestment to arms embargoes. 

Oliver Robertson - Head of Witness and Worship at Quakers in Britain - said: "This bill would limit the ability of public bodies to be able to make an investment decision, that's contrary to what the UK Government thinks. 

"We think that restriction is wrong.

"The reason is, we think that everybody -  all organisations or groups - should be able to have the freedom to spend, to invest, to trade ethically, and in line with their values, and with international law. 

We think that - by refusing to let public bodies like your local council do this - it's another sign of the government trying to limit dissent or difference of opinion in the political sphere, which is a key part of living in a broad and liberal society.

"It tells people what they can and cannot do, and that the only right thing to do is what the current government of the day believes. 

"It also goes a long way towards saying that different viewpoints and different values are not okay, and not acceptable. 

"As we know, there's often been a place for people of faith to stand up against injustice, to stand up against things that are wrong, and to say that the way the world is, is wrong, and is not the way it should be. 

"So to limit our ability to do that, I think is seen as a big danger and something that's fundamentally at odds with the society we want to be."

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