We are campaigning against Government plans to introduce sweeping new powers to combat 'non-violent' extremism. While we share with the Government's concern about Islamist, far right and sectarian extremism, we can't defend our values by further eroding free expression.
What’s the problem?
The Government is keen to introduce new speech laws to crackdown on 'non-violent extremism'.
Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) will allow courts to ban someone from speaking in public or on social media, restrict their freedom of association, and ban them from taking up various positions – such as a school governor.
The proposals risk capturing a whole range of behaviour and speech which fits under a broad, ill-defined conception of 'extremism'.
We are also concerned by reports that the orders would be applied on the "balance of probabilities", rather than the higher standard required in criminal trials of "beyond reasonable doubt".
We recognise the need to tackle religious extremism, but existing powers already exist to meet this end. For example, the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises the incitement of violence; the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, which creates an offence of inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion; and the Terrorism Act 2006, which prohibits statements that "glorify" terrorism. The Government is yet to identify a legitimate target which could not already be captured by existing law.
What are we doing?
- The National Secular Society is a founding member of the Defend Free Speech Campaign. Together with a coalition of other free speech advocates we are lobbying ministers and raising awareness to prevent these dangerous proposals from becoming law.
- In 2017 we responded to a Joint Committee on Human Rights consultation on freedom of speech in universities, which argued for a more consistent approach to universities' statutory duties on freedom of expression.
What you can do:
Watch this space
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Freedom of Expression Briefing (PDF, 333 Kb)
Our general briefing paper on freedom of expression.
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