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Friday, 15 June 2012

Unitarians urge religious bodies to be alert to the dangers to civil liberties of the Draft Communications Bill

I understand that the proposals as set out in the Draft Communications Bill would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone network providers in Britain to install 'black boxes' in order to collect and store information on everyone's internet and phone activity, and give the police the ability to self-authorise access to this information.

When this plan was first floated in April of this year the General Assembly was in session and such was the concern expressed that the meeting approved the following emergency Resolution:

“That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches deplores the proposed legislation allowing Government access to all private e-mails, texts, mobile phone and internet use, and calls upon all United Kingdom Unitarians and Free Christians to oppose vigorously this gross violation of the rights of privacy and civil liberty.”

The publication of the Draft Bill in no way meets our concerns about the infringement of civil liberties inherent in the proposals.

Unitarians have always been sceptical of the argument that “those who don’t break the law have nothing to fear” when used to justify legislation that interferes with the lives of individuals. This has been a charter for increasing Government interference and endangers the traditional relationship between the citizen and the state.

Religious bodies should think carefully about the implications of such legislation. For Unitarians religious and civil liberty have always gone hand in hand. The rights of the individual need to be respected in both spheres and we support personal freedom drawing upon longstanding views of the right of individuals to live their lives without disproportionate Government interference. These proposals go too far