The left-separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) administration’s proposed
Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is set to criminalise speech that is “likely” to “stir up hatred” against supposedly marginalised groups. As written the law would not require police or prosecutors to demonstrate malicious intent behind the statements.
In light of the sweeping new powers to police speech, the convener of Atheists Scotland, Ian Stewart
wrote in the Dundee newspaper The Courier: “Atheists see some merit in Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime Bill, as it will enable the prosecution of all Scotland’s religions and their Holy Books for spreading hatred.”
“It is utterly unacceptable that in progressive, social democratic Scotland that squalid, Bronze Age village disputes, as described in the Holy Books, about control of women, goats or water should give Scotland’s ‘
Holy Willies‘ authority to spout out vitriol against atheists, agnostics, apostates, sceptics, non-believers, women, trans people and homosexuals,” he declared.
Stewart said that his group intends to “monitor all Holy Books, sermons in places of worship and the social media accounts of the various religions” and will report any supposed offenders to Police Scotland to be criminally prosecuted.
In response to the atheist’s letter, the Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, Simon Calvert,
said that the loose language of the Hate Crime Bill “will give politically-motivated complainants like Mr Stewart a powerful weapon against their ideological opponents.”
“The threshold of the proposed offences is so low that Mr Stewart might well be able to persuade a police officer that certain unfashionable Bible verses or sermons are ‘hate crimes’. Does the Scottish Government really want to expose church ministers to the risk of prosecution at the instigation of anti-religious zealots?” Calvert questioned.
A former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, Reverend David Robertson, said that Stewart’s threatening letter “illustrates perfectly” why more limitations on freedom of speech should not be codified into law.
Robertson said that in his letter, Stewart is “in effect, saying that we should all be closed down unless we accept his authoritarian morality,” adding that the athiest “regards any disagreements with any of his fundamental beliefs as self-evident ‘hate’.”
In July, a group of Roman Catholic bishops
warned that the Hate Crime Bill could criminalise tenants of their faith such as the “belief that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable”.
They went on to warn that the provision in the bill that prohibits the possession of offensive content could even criminalise the possession of the Bible.
“Allowing for respectful debate means avoiding censorship and accepting the divergent views and multitude of arguments inhabiting society,” said Anthony Horan, the Director of the Catholic parliamentary office.
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