Isaiah 61
Government plans regulation of faith leaders.  

'Turns the clock back on religious freedom more than         
300 years
By Bob Unruh

Proposed legislation leaked to the media outlines how the United Kingdom
government plans to oversee religious leaders and their messages.

“If the reports are accurate, what the government is proposing turns the clock back on
religious freedom more than 300 years,” said Ciaran Kelly, a spokesman for the
Christian Institute.

“Not since the days of the notorious Test and Corporation Acts have we seen such a
concerted attempt by a British government to restrict religious practice,” Kelly said in
an institute report Tuesday. “We don’t want to go back to those darker days of
religious intolerance.”

It was the London Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan who obtained a copy of the plan.
“Imams, priests, rabbis and other religious figures will have to enroll in a ‘national
register of faith leaders’ and be subject to government-specified training and security
checks in the Home Office’s latest action on extremism,” he reported.

“The highly controversial proposal appears in a leaked draft of the government’s new
counter-extremism strategy, seen by The Telegraph, which goes substantially further
than previous versions of the document.”

He explained the government will demand “all faiths to maintain a national register of
faith leaders,” which will be subject to “the minimum level of training checks.”
“Registration will be compulsory for all faith leaders who wish to work with the public
sector, including universities, the document says. In practice, most faith leaders have
some dealings with the public sector and the requirement will cover the great majority,”
he reported.

Kelly explained in a statement from the institute, “They mean that Christian leaders
invited to speak to a university Christian Union would be required to go on a
government approved training scheme before being allowed to speak to students.
“This is a truly sinister proposal more in keeping with China or North Korea than a
democracy built on the freedoms of Magna Carta,” he said. “We would ask the
government to think again and drop these dangerous plans immediately.”

The plan reportedly defines extremism, the apparent target, as the “vocal or active
opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law,
individual liberty and the mutual respect of tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”
“This sounds unworkable and reads like too strong state intervention,” said Rabbi Neil
Janes of the West London Synagogue, according to the institute.

The U.K. government already has been criticized for its “Extremism Disruption
Orders,” which measure behavior it assesses to undermine “British values.”
The Telegraph report said the plan would be opposed by the Mosques and Imams
National Advisory Board.

And a spokesman for the Catholic church said it had not been consulted on the

Other senior Catholic sources said any plan for state supervision of priests would be
“firmly resisted.”

The Telegraph said the primary target appears to be Islamic extremism. The paper cited
the “Trojan Horse” scandal in Rotherham in which Muslim leaders were trying to take
over control of local schools.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was quoted saying: “For far too long, we have
been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens that as long as you obey the
law, we will leave you alone. The government will conclusively turn the page on this
failed approach.”

The problem, however, is that the broad term “British values” allows the government to
condemn and act against Christian schools that do not teach homosexuality, which
falls under the broad category of freedom under “British values.”  Christian Today
reported Catholic priest Fr. Jeffrey Steel said on Twitter: “Exactly what China did and
does. Don’t submit!”

Christian writer and blogger Barrie Lawrence tweeted: “Faith leaders’ in the UK will
have to register? I thought such predictions were alarmist – it’s starting to happen,”
according to the report.”

The Telegraph reported Colin Green, Christian author and expert on apologetics, noted
government plans to put church leaders’ names on a watchlist.
“No this isn’t a novel by George Orwell.”

In the U.S., the Obama administration has described the First Amendment religious
rights as “freedom of worship” instead of the constitutionally correct “freedom of
religion,” effectively limiting the scope to activity inside places of worship.

WND also reported a First Amendment expert warned that simply uttering the term “pro-
life” in a church these days could bring trouble from the Internal Revenue Service.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, an atheist group, demanded the IRS
investigate sermons focusing on certain politically charged “code words,” and,
through a settlement, the IRS appeared to agree.

The non-profit Becket Fund is raising questions about the practice.

Then there was the case in Houston in which city officials issued subpoenas for
copies of the sermons of several pastors who opposed a transgender-rights ordinance
adopted by the city.