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In the Press

  • Headteachers in British international schools overseas have warned that they could face imprisonment if they are forced to promote British values, including gay rights, as part of their lessons.
     
    Ministers are consulting on plans to hold schools accountable using the same measures as the government's Independent School Standards, which require all institutions to “actively promote” British values.
     
    This includes encouraging respect for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, even though the practice of homosexuality is illegal in certain countries, particularly in the Middle East and parts of Central Africa. But all schools will need to adhere to the standards in order to receive the coveted “British School Overseas” (BSO) kitemark.
  • British universities have become too politically correct and are stifling free speech by banning anything that causes the least offence to anyone, a group of leading academics warns on Saturday.
     
    A whole generation of students is being denied the “intellectual challenge of debating conflicting views” because self-censorship is turning campuses into over-sanitised “safe spaces”, they say.
     
    Their intervention comes as an Oxford college considers removing a historic statue of Cecil Rhodes, one of its alumni and benefactors, because he is regarded as the founding father of apartheid in South Africa.

    Oriel College says the statue of Rhodes, on a building he paid for, jars with the values of a modern university. It is facing a battle with Historic England, which has listed the statue as an object of historical interest.
     
    Writing in The Telegraph, the academics, led by Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Canterbury, and Joanna Williams, education editor, Spiked, say it is part of a “long and growing” list of people and objects banned from British campuses, including pop songs, sombreros and atheists.
  • A society of mosques that represents up to 70,000 Muslims has vowed to boycott the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent programme after accusing the policy of being a racist attack on the Islamic community.
     
    The Waltham Forest Council of Mosques made the move in the wake of increasing tensions between the area’s council and the Muslim community.
     
    It is the first time a council of mosques has issued such a boycott and it will be seen as a blow to the government’s attempt to involve religious communities in the fight against radicalisation.
     
    The WFCOM statement was triggered by a motion at a meeting of Waltham Forest council on Thursday endorsing the need for the controversial Prevent programme and an associated programme known as Brit, launched to identify signs of radicalisation in primary school children.
     
    The council of mosques condemned the council for linking the high profile stabbing at Leytonstone tube station this month reportedly by a man shouting “this is for Syria” to the need to implement the Brit programme in schools.
  • A teaching assistant has been convicted of killing his unborn baby by kicking and stamping on his heavily pregnant ex-girlfriend after she refused to have an abortion.
     
    Kevin Wilson, 22, and a 17-year-old boy were found guilty at the Old Bailey of child destruction and causing grievous bodily harm to Malorie Bantala on 15 June this year when she was eight months pregnant.
  • A British government review into Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood published on Thursday concluded that membership of or links to the political group should be considered a possible indicator of extremism but stopped short of recommending that it should be banned.
     
    The long-delayed review into the organisation was first commissioned in April 2014 by Prime Minister David Cameron with a remit to examine whether the group put British national security at risk.
     
    "Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism," Cameron said in a statement.
  • Here's one of my top Christmas wishes: let’s stop banning things we don’t like. I don’t know how it happened, but the clamour to ban everything and everyone we don’t agree with has got out of hand. 
     
    Donald Trump has deeply unsavoury and divisive views about Muslims. Ban him from entering the UK! Tyson Fury is sexist and a homophobe. Ban him from BBC Sports Personality of the Year! Germaine Greer, of all people, has some pretty unreconstructed views on transgender people. Ban her from speaking at a university campus!
     
    Earlier this year, more than 130,000 people signed a petition to ban Kanye West from headlining Glastonbury in order to prevent “musical injustice”. That’s more people than you can fit in the field at the Pyramid Stage.
  • The government's radical proposals to tackle extremism are "absurd" and must be postponed to allow more time to respond, a Christian MP has said.
     
    Fiona Bruce MP today asked the Leader of House to "use his influence to seek an extension" to the deadline as the consultation fell over Christmas, "the busiest period of the year for many Christians." The open consultation allows members of the public to give their views on the controversial plans.
     
    The Department for Education's new strategy to combat extremism means any initiative that includes teaching and works with children for six hours or more a week will have to register and be ready to be inspected by Ofsted officials.
     
    The government's proposals could mean Ofsted inspectors would be allowed into Sunday schools, youth groups and Christian summer camps, said Bruce.
     
    "The Government has not properly thought through these proposals, and needs to go back to the drawing board," she added, after making the comments in the House of Commons today.
  • A judge in the trial of an evangelical preacher accused of making "grossly offensive" remarks about Islam will deliver his verdict next month.
     
    Pastor James McConnell, 78, denies two charges relating to a sermon he gave in a church last year.

    A prosecution lawyer said his words were not "a slip of the tongue", while a defence lawyer said he should not be convicted.

    Judgement was reserved, and the verdict will be given on 5 January.
  • Laws governing where and how couples can get married in England and Wales are inconsistent, rigidly restrictive and hopelessly out of date, the Government’s adviser on legal reform insists in a major report calling for a complete overhaul of the system.
     
    The Law Commission describes the system of registration involving different rules for churches, register offices, hotels and special venues as one effectively trapped in the early 19th century and unfit for a multi-cultural, multi-faith society.
     
    It follows calls for a complete reappraisal of the system of registering weddings, during the debate two years ago on introducing same-sex marriage.
     
  • Today Mr Justice Horner reached his final conclusion in the judicial review of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
     
    Reading his final conclusion to the packed courtroom, he acknowledged that to interpret sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the law which specifically protects the child in the womb, to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest and when the unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, would be ‘a step too far’. Instead, the judge made a ‘declaration of incompatibility’, meaning that the matter of introducing new legislation is now for the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide.
     
    Mr Justice Horner’s ruling today does not change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. There is no obligation on the Northern Ireland Assembly to act on this ruling or to legalise abortion in the above cases.

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