On Wednesday, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland warned the new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill could lead to the criminalization and censorship of Catholic teaching.
The proposed bill, first introduced by the Scottish government on April 23rd, would make it a crime to “stir up hatred” against protected groups, expanding existing law to now include race, sexual orientation, and ‘transgender identity.’ The bill was proposed after an ‘independent review’ of hate crime laws in the country led by a prominent retired judge, Lord Bracadale.
However, in a statement given to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee, Scotland’s Bishops argued that “how hatred is defined is not clear which leaves it open to wide interpretation.”
“Whilst acknowledging that stirring up of hatred is morally wrong and supporting moves to discourage and condemn such behaviour the bishops have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity around definitions and a potentially low threshold for committing an offence, which they fear, could lead to a ‘deluge of vexatious claims.'”
They warned the law could make the Bible and teachings of the Church, specifically saying that the Church’s “understanding of the human person, including the belief that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable, could fall foul of the new law.”
“A new offense of possessing inflammatory material could even render material such as the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church inflammatory. Such pronouncements, which are widely held, might be perceived by others as an abuse of their own, personal worldview and likely to stir up hatred. Allowing for respectful debate, means avoiding censorship and accepting the divergent views and multitude of arguments inhabiting society.”
Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said the bishops in their submission to parliament decried ‘cancel culture,’ specifically citing J.K. Rowling who lives in Scotland and was recently accused of ‘transphobia’ for saying men can’t be women and women can’t be men.
“The growth of what some describe as the ‘cancel culture’ is deeply concerning. No single section of society has dominion over acceptable and unacceptable speech or expression. Whilst the legislature and judiciary must create and interpret laws to maintain public order it must do so carefully, weighing in fundamental freedoms and allowing for reasonably held views, the expression of which is not intended to cause harm.”
It’s not just Scotland’s Bishops criticizing the bill – Scotland’s police are as well: The Scottish Police Federation have previously said the legislation could ‘paralyze freedom of speech’ and ‘devastate’ the relationship between the public and the police.