17 December 2014
Protecting the UK against terrorism
The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is currently before Parliament, seeks to place a duty on specified authorities (identified in full in Schedule 3 to the bill, and set out in this draft guidance) to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism
It is a laudable and rational objective, wholly accordant with the first duty of government: to afford protection to its citizens. We have witnessed too many extremists infiltrate our schools and university campuses, railing against liberty, despising our democracy, preaching their fanatical creeds of hate, intolerance, and the imperative of caliphate dominion. Our youth is vulnerable to religious radicalisation, and, in the wake of terrorist bombs on London Underground and the massacre of cartoonists in Paris, the need for vigilance is acute.
And so the Government is proposing that universities (indeed, all educational establishments) must henceforth vet all visiting speakers. They must censor all speeches and scutinise every Powerpoint presentation in order to ensure that the discourse is clean; that is to say, agreeable to state morality and concordant with ‘British values’. Our professors of academia must become the policemen of political probity, arresting and reporting all thought-criminals – the subversives engaged in “non violent extremism”; the radicals who fail “to respect individual liberty”; the bigots who refuse to give “mutual respect and tolerance (to) different faiths and beliefs”.
The Evangelical Alliance observes:
New draft government guidance will effectively require university authorities to vet visiting speakers’ talks and presentational materials for Christian Union meetings. Such proposals will convey blanket powers for universities to censor all outside speakers. Whilst aimed at all external presenters this will also provide the means for those hostile to Christian beliefs to obstruct the operation of Christian groups such as CUs, several of which have already been a target in recent years. Even the sermons of speakers at carol services will be caught by the proposals.
Not to worry: you have to submit your proposed Lessons and Carols 14 days in advance so they might be inspected for extremism. ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light..‘? Sorry, you can’t say that: it manifests a lack of respect for non-Christians; it expresses intolerance of different faiths. Who are you to judge that they walk in darkness? Appalling bigotry.
You don’t need to be a moral theologian to see how this programme of surveillance, detection and control will be used silence those who support Israel, suppress those who oppose abortion and restrict those who happen to believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. Indeed, we have already seen examples of the invocation of ‘health and safety’ in order to prohibit debates by which Israel might be seen to be justified; abortion might be considered wicked; and same-sex marriage might be viewed as a category error and an abuse of parliamentary power. No matter how reasoned and intelligent the speaker, or how moderate and equitable their message, they are invariably greeted with an organised campaign of intimidation – often through Facebook and Twitter – such that the organisers are forced to cancel the event entirely. Merely to believe has become a blasphemy against the State’s moral orthodoxy.
If incitement to violence and physical harm are no longer the limits of free speech, who determines what opinions and beliefs are ‘extreme’? Writing in The Times, Lord Macdonald QC, Warden of Wadham College, observes:
None of this, of course, has anything to so with what a university is there for and it won’t make any of us one jot safer, or rescue a single young person from a sought-after death in the desert. Rather worse, it seems to speak of a society that, far from feeling secure in its values, determined to defend them with confidence and pride in the face of faux-medieval darkness, offers up a feeble gasp of defeat, the surrender of the essence of academic freedom – the belief that the state should lay off the intellect unless thoughts amount to real crime. It is not encouraging that the Home Office fails to grasp that this is an equation we should make with vanishing rareness, proposing instead an unworkable intolerance.
Equality, Tolerance and Respect have become a cultural theology; the new trinity of the emerging civil religion. Under the guise of preventing terrorism and extremism, the Government risks curtailing religious liberty and the freedom to express moral orthodoxy and biblical truth. Can’t the Home Secretary distinguish Wahhabism from Evangelicalism or Salfism from Roman Catholicism? After long and bloody centuries of hard-won liberties, is it to become an offence to preach the unequitable, intolerant and disrespectful gospel that salvation is to be found in Christ alone?