A Christian legal group has expressed fears for free speech and gospel sharing as the government cracks down on protests.
Ryan Christopher, director of the Alliance Defending Freedom UK, warned that a new body of law in the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and the Government’s proposals in the Public Order Act of 2022 could see Christians and churches penalized and even placed under criminal responsibility. survey to express their beliefs.
The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act recently received Royal Assent and gives officers the power to suppress ‘unjustifiably loud demonstrations which cause harm to another person or prevent an organization from functioning “.
A government fact sheet on the new law states: ‘This power may only be used where police reasonably believe that noise from the protest may seriously disrupt an organization’s business or have a significant impact on people at proximity to the event. .
“‘Impact’ is defined as intimidation, harassment, alarm or distress, with police then determining whether the impact is significant.”
The government said such action would only be taken when ‘deemed necessary and proportionate’, but Christopher said the law ‘is so broad that it could easily be used to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms’ .
This could cause Christians who share the gospel in public or pro-lifers offering support to women outside abortion centers to break the law, he said.
Concerned parents who come together to express critical gender views in or near public schools could also be interpreted as risk or distress, he warned.
“Such broad discretion to restrict freedom of speech and religion has no place in a democratic society,” Christopher said.
“Although the government has given several assurances that fundamental rights will be respected, the law remains vague, broad and very unclear.
“In today’s cultural context, the consequence of poorly drafted legislation will be the systematic violation of the rights and discrimination of views of ordinary law-abiding citizens.”
He warned that the new Public Order Bill threatened to make the situation worse, with the government planning to tighten restrictions in the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
He said he was particularly concerned about proposals to target those associated with a particular protest.
“Given that the protest can now be interpreted to include street preachers and pro-life vigilantes, this new proposal could bring many churches and charities that support them into the crosshairs of a criminal investigation,” he said. he declared.
“Such broad discretion to restrict freedom of expression and religion has no place in a democratic society.
“While the government has sought to reassure those affected that fundamental…