Extremist Disruption Orders (EDOs), designed to silence people who have not committed any crime, look set to exceed the Religious Hatred Bill in their scope.
The Christian Institute has been amongst the first to raise concerns about the plans, and made the following statement.
‘Under the plans, the police will be able to apply for a court order to restrict ‘harmful activities’.
This looks like a gagging order, triggered by anything deemed to breach the tenets of the Equality Act. It’s not hard to see how this could be misused against Christians. Earlier this year the government was prevented from outlawing people being ‘annoying’ in public. And it’s less than a year since changes to Section 5 of the Public Order Act were finally made to prevent prosecutions against people deemed to have ‘insulted’ someone. Prior to this there were many cases of innocent Christians being arrested or unfairly treated by over-zealous or misinformed police officers. On both occasions, the over-broad powers were stopped by the House of Lords.
Blind eye to shari’a courts
There are, however, already extensive anti-extremist powers available to the authorities, but they are not being fully used. For example, the government is turning a blind eye to shari’a courts. The law already protects against incitement, harassment and violence. But the law should also uphold free speech. It should not be used to suppress legitimate religious freedoms.’