CrossBanNews48

Aaron James, "Christian union stopped from meeting in UK college ", Premier.org.uk (06 June 2016)

 

According to Premier, the Christian charity 'Festive' has confirmed that a UK college of further education has barred a Christian union from meeting on the grounds that it is "prohibited under the government's Prevent scheme." At the moment, there's very little information about this, so I can't say anything definite, but it certainly sounds alarming.

Maybe though, as one commenter on the Premier website remarks, the group isn't "a mainstream-Christian Union" after all, but possibly some kind of "glorified Westboro-Baptist type of group". Maybe, although that would surprise me. If that turns out to be right, and they're saying things like "God hates fags", as the Westboro Baptist Church website puts it, then I have little sympathy for them. But if, as seems more likely, they are simply saying things like "Jesus is Lord", and being judged by the college—thanks to the government's vaguely-worded Prevent Dutyas an instance of "intolerance to different faiths and beliefs", then, not only do they have my sympathy, theirs is a case that should worry each and every one of us who believes in freedom of speech.

Update, 9 June:

Yesterday, Fiona Bruce (Conservative MP for Congleton) brought up the matter in Prime Minister's Question Time. (I have highlighted the relevant parts.)

 

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)

"Next week, the annual national parliamentary prayer breakfast will take place in Westminster Hall, at which 600 community and faith leaders and over 100 MPs will gather. Yet also this week, we hear of a Christian union being banned from holding prayer and Bible study meetings, purportedly on the grounds of the Government’s anti-terrorism Prevent strategy. Does the Prime Minister agree that such action was never the purpose of a strategy intended to address terrorism and extremism?"


The Prime Minister
 
"Of course what my hon. Friend says is right. I am very sorry I will not be able to attend the prayer breakfast, because I know it is a very good event, and it brings a lot of people together and means a lot to Christians around our country. On the point she makes about the Prevent duty being misused, I have not heard of that exact example, but it is clearly ludicrous. People do need to exercise some common sense in making these judgments, because it is quite clear that that is not what was intended."

 

This is exactly what people have been saying all along. The vagueness of the Prevent Duty's definition of "extremism" means that it is wide-open to "being misused", whether by further education colleges, or indeed governments. The very fact that it requires "common sense" from people in order to function properly demonstrates that it is not fit for purpose. Far from being "ludicrous", this is a logical outcome of the dangerous legislation, and it is irresponsible of David Cameron to criticise others when the main fault lies with his own government.

  
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