Tory Manifesto: Evangelicals warn extremism pledge could target Christians

Evangelicals are warning Conservative plans to counter extremism could lead to Christians being denounced for not holding 'correct' views on issues such as gay marriage and abortion.

The Tory manifesto promised a Commission for Countering Extremism 'to identify examples of extremism and expose them' and 'promote pluralistic values'.

The Christian Institute warns plans to counter extremism could lead to conservative views on gay marriage being labelled extremist.Reuters

The Christian Institute is warning the Commission could be used by activists to target for 'witch-hunts against people with traditional views' and says the Conservatives have 'a lot of questions to answer'.

The previous 2015 Tory manifesto pledged Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) and promised to 'tackle all forms of extremism, including non-violent extremism'. Although abandoned during government, this would have allowed people with extremist views to be banned from social media and the internet.

The 2017 Conservative manifesto did not specifically suggest targeting 'non-violent extremism' – which could include views on same-sex marriage – it did promise to 'consider what new criminal offences might need to be created, and what new aggravated offences might need to be established, to defeat the extremists'.

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Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute welcomed the row back from EDOs but warned the Commission must not lead to 'denouncing people for not holding the 'correct' views'.

He said: 'If the Conservatives do form the next government and they press ahead with this Commission, they'll have to be very careful about who they appoint and what their mandate will be. It's no good filling it with politically correct zealots, fresh from no-platforming Germaine Greer, using their new powers to denounce their ideological opponents.

'We've already seen a series of witch-hunts against people with traditional views. And there are plenty of commentators and civil servants who already see mainstream, orthodox Christian views as dangerous.

'This Commission on extremism might make a bad situation a whole lot worse.'

To read more about what the Conservative Party's manifesto says about religion and the Church, click here.

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