By John Martin

Christian leaders are expressing alarm that the U.K. government’s proposed counter-extremism plans could lead to thousands of inspections of Sunday schools, church youth groups, and even bell-ringing teams and turn the national Office for Standards in Education into a state regulator of religion.

The proposals, which are understood to have the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron, would lead to “out-of-school education settings” facing inspections for whether they promote British values.

The Evangelical Alliance, representing around two million U.K. Christians, said the plans risked the “wholesale nationalization of youth work and the indirect state regulation of private religious practice.”

“It is a car crash of an idea that results from our government’s unwillingness to admit that the danger we face is not from religious extremism in general, but a strand of Islamic theology in particular,” said the Rt. Rev. Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone.

Parliamentarian Fiona Bruce also was skeptical: “When the government’s definition of extremism is so broad that you have officials sitting in to ensure Mums and Tots aren’t being radicalized by singing Bible songs, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.”

Link: “The Prevent duty: Departmental advice for schools and childcare providers” is available from the Department for Education as an 11-page PDF.

Image of a Sunday school via Wikimedia Commons

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