GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSED COUNTER-EXTREMISM AND SAFEGUARDING BILL RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND BELIEFS

1st September 2017

Following a letter of concerns raised by some members of the Balham Seventh-day Adventist church, on Tuesday 25 July 2017, MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan met with the Balham Adventist church's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department leader, Mr Joseph Dominique Clem. The meeting was to discuss the proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill and the recent Casey Review as well as the Out-of-school Education Settings: Call for Evidence.

Mr Clem highlighted that it is still not clear how new legislations would deal with the problem of defining 'extremism', 'nonviolent extremism' or 'British values' in a way that would not threaten freedom of speech or freedom to exercise one's belief.

Referring to the Counter-Extremism: Government Response to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2016-17, Mr Clem pointed out that freedom of worship remains a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty that should be defended, but questions remain such as, under such a proposed bill, will a person, holding conservative religious views such as the belief that there is only salvation through Jesus Christ or a religious belief opposed to same-sex marriage, falls into the definition of 'nonviolent extremism'?

Also, referring to both the recent Casey Review and the Out-of-school Education Settings: Call for Evidence, Mr Clem expressed that there seems to be no guarantee that any charity organisation, teaching that there is only salvation through Jesus Christ or by upholding a religious belief opposed to same-sex marriage, be suitable for registering as an out-of-school setting (or can be declared unsuitable by Ofsted and/or the Charity Commission).

MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan listened and thanked Mr Clem for bringing these concerns to her attention which she shared were not only of interest to Seventh-day Adventists, but also other religious organisations. Rosena Allin-Khan stated that she will bring the concerns raised to Parliament and added that she also had some concerns about the Casey Review which, although intended to bring unity between communities, unfortunately divides them.

[Joseph Clem]


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