A UK terrorism expert has warned that proposed counter-extremism laws could work to silence people who support traditional belief systems – including traditional definitions of marriage and family.
In an article from the Independent, Shaun Connolly reports on comments made by the UK Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, who is tasked with reporting to Parliament on the operation of counter-terrorism law in the UK. In an interview with the BBC, Mr Anderson said that because the definition of “extremism” is being linked with ideologies contrary to British ‘values’ (including the value of “tolerance”), the proposed laws could operate to target those with traditional views as “extremists”:
"I think the trouble with rules like that is that all sorts of people are going, in principle, to be subject to them. People are going to complain about neighbours, they're going to complain about people they work with, the police are going to feel they have to investigate all sorts of people who are miles away from being terrorists, but may just practise religion in a conservative way, or may have eccentric political views.”
The article continues to list serious concerns about the anti-extremism measures being taken by the UK Government, highlighting its impact on personal freedom. As Anderson expressed:
"They say that if you are going to engage in extremist activity, then you could be made subject to some coercive measure whereby you might not be able to use social media, or you might be limited in your associations, or in where you can go, and so on," he said.
Anderson is not the only one who sees major flaws with the Bill. Last July, the Joint Committee on Human Rights stepped in, urging the Government to reconsider the legislation. The group expressed concerns that the Bill would initiate war on those who espoused conservative values, and posed if anything, a weak solution to the global issue:
The committee said it was concerned that any new legislation targeting conservative religious views - including beliefs regarded as homophobic or misogynistic by many Britons - was likely to end up either discriminating against Muslims or being used indiscriminately against evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and other groups which have no record of encouraging violence.
Not only does the Counter-Extremism Bill specifically focus on religious groups, but it simultaneously attacks traditional values in general. In particular, it threatens the societal pillars of marriage and family, equating “conservative” views of them to acts of terrorism. Under this Bill, punishments such as the revocation of social media or limitation of social contact could be enforced upon those who don’t embrace the secular agendas, even when in conflict with their conscience.
For Australia, such legislation is a warning: as more laws attacking fundamental freedoms are become probable, we must take note of the far reaching consequences. Furthermore, we must be ready to defend our rights and the definition of marriage. If the definition of marriage falls, we can be certain that our religious freedoms and freedom of speech will suffer in tandem.