Why are EDOs a problem?
EDOs are an all-out assault on free speech, religious liberty and legitimate protest.
Because the Government’s definition of extremism is so vague, it will risk criminalising ordinary people for simply standing up for what they believe in.
This campaign is about freedom of speech. We believe it is worth defending. We believe it is vital to democracy and allows the citizens of this country to hold the Government to account for its actions and activities.
Dissent and free speech are an essential part of civil society. They led to Magna Carta, the creation of our parliamentary democracy, an end to slavery, and votes for women.
This will have the effect of ramping up a climate of fear where both lecturers and students are afraid to speak.
Because of the low burden of proof, it is perfectly plausible that comedians, satirists, campaign groups, religious groups, secularist groups, and even journalists could find themselves subject to these draconian measures.
Those engaged in passionate debates – such as Christians objecting to gay marriage – could find themselves slapped down.
It makes an absolute mockery, a nonsense, of the very values that we’re trying to defend.
This could cover, not just Islamist hotheads, but Trotskyists who don’t respect British laws or Christians who don’t support gay marriage (and therefore don’t have “respect for minorities”).
While everyone applauds the principle of tackling Islamic extremism, comments by David Cameron and other senior members of the Government suggest EDOs will exceed even Labour's notorious religious hatred Bill or Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The fact that these Extremist Disruption Orders won’t only apply to potential terrorists, but simply to those who present a threat to public disorder, clearly highlights that this policy is the thin end of the wedge.
The very definition—the heart—of a free, liberal society is that we should be free to offend each other, and that is what is at stake in this new debate.
One can imagine already the powers being used against harmless evangelical street preachers or the like, out of misplaced zeal and a desire to demonstrate that they are not directed against one religion alone.
The Government should have every tool possible to tackle extremism and terrorism, but there is a huge arsenal of laws already in place and a much better case needs to be made for introducing draconian measures such as Extremism Disruption Orders, which are almost unchallengeable and deprive individuals of their liberties.
Restricting free speech, and forcing those who hold views inimical to our own into the shadows, is an authoritarian act that will only serve to further alienate those susceptible to extremist views.
Now the Government seeks to bring in a law that could criminalise dissent and free speech, branding those with unpopular, traditional, or challenging views as extremists. We believe this is unfair and will have a chilling effect on life in this country.
At best, EDOs are a rash response to a perceived gap in legislation. But there are more than enough laws to combat terrorism already – the problem is not the lack of legislation, but the failure to apply current laws. At worst, EDOs represent an Orwellian power grab that will allow the authorities to criminalise those they don’t agree with – be they religious preachers, political activists or protestors.