Church leaders urge withdraw of controversial section of Hate Crime Bill

Church leaders urge withdraw of controversial section of Hate Crime Bill to allow “adequate consideration”

 

Friday 12 February

 

An unprecedented alliance of Catholic and Evangelical church leaders are urging the Scottish Government to drop part of its proposed Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill to allow time for “detailed consideration of crucial provisions.” The Bill, which would potentially criminalise any criticism of Transgender ideology has been criticised by the Catholic Church, the Free Church of Scotland and the Evangelical Alliance.

 

In a letter addressed today (Friday 12 February) to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf, the church leaders call for greater protections for freedom of expression and say:

 

“We believe that people should be completely free to disagree with our faith in any way, including mocking and ridiculing us. We are convinced that our faith is true and has a sufficient evidential basis to withstand any criticism, we therefore welcome open debate.” 

 

By contrast, concerns are raised that any disagreement with or criticism of Transgender identity could fall foul of the new law, if passed in its current form. The church leaders point out, that “Transgender identity has been subject of extensive and emotional public discussion. Such free discussion and criticism of views is vital as society wrestles with these ideas.” They warn however, that they “cannot accept that any position or opinion at variance with the proposition that sex (or gender) is fluid and changeable should not be heard.”

 

The letter marks the first time Catholic, Free Church and Evangelical Alliance leaders have jointly petitioned the Scottish Government and sought a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Supporting “open and honest debate” the letter ends with an assertion, that “A right to claim that binary sex does not exist or is fluid must be matched with a right to disagree with that opinion; and protection from prosecution for holding it.” As well as a warning that: ”The Parliament now has approximately four weeks to complete the passage of the bill. This is extraordinarily tight and risks inadequate and ill-thought through legislation being passed. No workable solutions to issues of freedom of expression have so far been suggested. If no such solutions can be found we hope the Scottish Government will now consider withdrawing the stirring up hatred offences in Part 2 of the bill to allow more detailed consideration and discussion and to ensure freedom of expression provisions, which enshrine free and open debate, are afforded the scrutiny they require.”

 

ENDS

 

Peter Kearney 
Director 
Catholic Media Office 
5 St. Vincent Place 
Glasgow 
G1 2DH 
0141 221 1168
07968 122291 
pk@scmo.org 
www.scmo.org

 

 

Notes to Editors:

 

The full text of the letter is shown below.

Humza Yousaf MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Justice

The Scottish Government

St. Andrew's House

Edinburgh

EH1 3DG

 

Friday 12th February 2021

 

Dear Mr Yousaf,

 

 

Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill – Stage 2 amendments

 

We are writing to you as representatives of three communities of churches in Scotland in relation to the progress of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) bill at Stage 2 and to ask if we may be able to meet with you in the coming days in relation to this.

 

As you know we have engaged extensively throughout the bill process including a number of meetings with you and your officials, and all gave oral evidence to the Justice Committee on 10th November. In all of this we have sought to play a constructive role. We recognise the sensitivities involved in this bill, have sought consensus, and looked to help play our part in protecting vulnerable communities from hate crime whilst at the same time protecting fundamental freedoms on which we all depend for our common life. Our approach has never been to just narrowly consider the needs of our own communities only but rather to look at the impact of this bill across society.

 

As you know from the outset, we have had a number of concerns about this bill and these have been well represented in our evidence. These included plans to create new offences without intent, offences related to inflammatory material and the protection of freedom of speech. We are grateful for Scottish Government and Justice Committee consideration of these and the improvements that have been made to the bill in these first two areas.

 

However, central to the impact of this bill has always been the protections for freedom of expression. We were therefore very concerned at the approach outlined at the Stage 2 committee meeting on 2nd February that appears to take an entirely new approach to this issue with only a few weeks remaining until the bill must be passed at Stage 3. It appears that after eight months of discussion and scrutiny of the bill the approach to date has been discarded in a few short days, with very little time remaining for further discussion and engagement with stakeholders.

 

As Christians, we do not always agree with one another and know that many do not necessarily share or even understand our beliefs, but we are utterly committed to the free and open exchange of ideas in society. We believe that people should be completely free to disagree with our faith in any way, including mocking and ridiculing us. We are convinced that our faith is true and has a sufficient evidential basis to withstand any criticism, we therefore welcome open debate. 

 

We therefore welcome amendments to Section 11 of the bill which clarify that, in relation to religious belief, mere expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult are not, on their own, criminal behaviour together with the fact that this is extended to those of no belief as well. We support a robust approach to freedom of expression in relation to religion in the Bill, in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and we urge the Scottish Parliament to move forward with these amendments to ensure the rights of everyone in society to freely express their beliefs.

 

However, we are very concerned that a similarly clear and robust approach has not been taken in relation to other areas of the bill, as was previously proposed, in favour of what appears to be a catch all freedom of expression statement on the face of this bill. Whilst any statement to that effect would be welcome there are very real dangers that this general nature amounts to a watering down of protections as the detail of specific protections is lost, meaning that there would be continued uncertainty for prosecutors, courts and most importantly the general public, about the operation of the bill. Those concerns, which Ministers, officials and committee members have spent months trying to address, now appear at risk of being discarded in a rush to find a general statement that can be agreed. We note the commitment of all parties to reset discussions on the freedom of expression provisions in the bill. However, we are disappointed that these months of discussions on the bill, including extensive input from stakeholders, now appears to be in danger of being set aside.

 

Specifically, we have concerns in relation to the approach taken to Section 12 in relation to sexual orientation and the approach taken to the issue of transgender identity – an issue raised almost weekly during the committee evidence sessions. In both these areas we must all be careful to distinguish between hateful, nasty, vicious, or malevolent attacks on the person on one hand, and disagreement or dispute with an ideological position on the other.

 

While welcoming the inclusion of protection for discussion of criticism of sexual conduct and practices, we urge the Scottish Parliament to extend this to also allow for discussion and criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to the marriage. When marriage between parties of the same sex was introduced in Scotland assurance was given that no religious body would be forced to conduct them, implicit in that assurance was protection for those who expressed doctrinal disagreement with such marriages.

 

We also welcomed proposed amendments in relation to a new clause relating to Freedom of Expression in relation to transgender identity. Transgender identity has been subject of extensive and emotional public discussion. Such free discussion and criticism of views is vital as society wrestles with these ideas. While we acknowledge the difficulties and struggles experienced by those with Gender Dysphoria and are acutely aware of the sensitivities involved from our own pastoral care settings, we cannot accept that any position or opinion at variance with the proposition that sex (or gender) is fluid and changeable should not be heard. Open and honest debate on the very essence of the human person should never be stifled. We believe provision must therefore be made in the bill for discussion and criticism of views on transgender identity without fear of criminal sanctions. A right to claim that binary sex does not exist or is fluid must be matched with a right to disagree with that opinion; and protection from prosecution for holding it.

 

The Parliament now has approximately four weeks to complete the passage of the bill. This is extraordinarily tight and risks inadequate and ill-thought through legislation being passed. No workable solutions to issues of freedom of expression have so far been suggested. If no such solutions can be found we hope the Scottish Government will now consider withdrawing the stirring up hatred offences in Part 2 of the bill to allow more detailed consideration and discussion and to ensure freedom of expression provisions, which enshrine free and open debate, are afforded the scrutiny they require.

 

We look forward to hearing from you and hope to be able to meet with you soon.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

Stephen Allison Assistant Clerk of the Free Church of Scotland.

Fred Drummond, National Director of the Evangelical Alliance Scotland

 

 

(CC Mr Tomkins, Convener of Scottish Parliament Justice Committee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to Updates

Subscribe to:
Like   Back to Top   Seen 384 times   Liked 1 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Subscribe to News updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS RSS

‹ Return to News

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

Scottish Bishops welcome Pope’s call for Synod in 2023

| 01st June 2021 | Blogging

    Scottish Bishops welcome Pope’s call for Synod in 2023 1 June 2021   Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have welcomed a call from Pope Francis for a Synod on the theme of Synodality, to be held in 2023. Commenting on the announcement, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said;   “Last Sunday the Church celebrated the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and our Lady at the very beginning, the birthday, of the Church. We gave thanks for the gifts of the Holy Spirit that first Pentecost but also celebrated the ongoing gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Mindful of these gifts the Bishops of Scotland welcome the initiative of Pope Francis to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church, to the People of God, to listen to one another, and to make that Synodal journey together of communion, participation and mission.”   Bishop Gilbert added;   “The Pope has called for a very participative process, engaging all the faithful, which will prepare for this Synod. The Bishops of Scotland welcome the Initiative for a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission. As the principle and foundation of unity in our dioceses, the Bishops look forward to the launch of the Synodal journey, a period of consultation and discernment in our local Churches, on Sunday 17th October of this year, and preparations are now being made for that event. We ask all the faithful to pray for the success of this initiative in the life of the universal and local Church, and above all to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through all of us in the Body of Christ.”   ENDS   Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 0141 221 116807968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org   Note to Editors:   The Synodal process will conclude in Rome in October 2023....

Scottish Bishops establish a“Care of Creation Office”

| 17th May 2021 | Blogging

Scottish Bishops establish a“Care of Creation Office” Monday 17 May 2021   Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have announced their intention to set up a “Care of Creation Office” ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow later this year. Commenting on the decision, Bishop William Nolan, the Bishop of Galloway and President of the National Justice & Peace Commission said:   “On Pentecost Sunday (23 May 2021) we mark the 6th anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on care for our common home. It reminds all Catholics of their responsibilities towards one another and the world we live. Inspired by the Pope’s letter and in preparation for the COP26 conference taking place in Glasgow in November, the Bishops’ Conference has decided to set-up a “Care of Creation Office” this year.”   Bishop Nolan added:   “The Office’s aim will be to give practical advice and guidance: helping dioceses and parishes assess their carbon footprint and discern how to work towards carbon neutrality, it will be headed by Fr Gerard H Maguiness the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.  God has honoured us by giving humanity the task of being a co-operator in the work of creation we hope our lives enhance and build-up that creation and pray that the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow later this year bear fruit for our planet.”   The announcement of the new office coincides with a National Pastoral letter from Scotland’s Bishops being distributed to all parishes for Pentecost Sunday (23 May 2021) on the theme of caring for creation. The letter marks the Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si’ and draws attention to the Christian message, that “we are all part of one human family and that we share a common home, means that our earth’s resources must be shared and used for the benefit of all”.   ENDS   Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 0141 221 116807968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org   Note to Editors:   The full text of the Pentecost pastoral Letter appears below:   Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of Scotland on the Sixth Anniversary of Laudato Si’ Pentecost 2021   God saw all that he had made and indeed it was very good.[1] God’s creation is a great gift to all humanity, and humanity itself is an integral part of that creation. We are blessed by having the earth for our common home. It is a place of great beauty, teeming with life of all kinds, a world full of wonderful resources which enable us not only to live but to enhance our way of life. In nature, God’s glory is revealed for all to see.[2] St Francis of Assisi was prominent among the saints in giving praise to God for the wonder of creation.[3] We have been entrusted by God with the care of the earth,[4] but sadly we have not just used the earth we have abused it. We are destroying the seas, polluting the atmosphere and consuming the abundant but limited resources of this world while neglecting the needs of our poor brothers and sisters and showing no concern for tomorrow. The earth, our common home, is given to all of humanity and its resources are not just for us to use now but to be preserved and passed on to future generations.[5] As Christians we thank God for gift of creation, but, because we have taken that gift for granted, when we look at creation as it is now we are conscious of the failings of humanity; we are conscious of the need for what the gospel calls “metanoia”,[6] not just sorrow for the abuse of creation, not just a change of heart, but a change of life and how we live our lives.[7] A very solid scientific consensus[8] tells us that human activity has brought the earth to a crisis point and that action is needed that is both urgent and deep rooted, particularly due to CO2 emissions. Governments have a responsibility to work together, and with haste, to reduce emissions to a safe level. Governments als...

Scottish Bishops establish a“Care of Creation Office”

| 17th May 2021 | Blogging

Scottish Bishops establish a“Care of Creation Office” Monday 17 May 2021   Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have announced their intention to set up a “Care of Creation Office” ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow later this year. Commenting on the decision, Bishop William Nolan, the Bishop of Galloway and President of the National Justice & Peace Commission said:   “On Pentecost Sunday (23 May 2021) we mark the 5th anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on care for our common home. It reminds all Catholics of their responsibilities towards one another and the world we live. Inspired by the Pope’s letter and in preparation for the COP26 conference taking place in Glasgow in November, the Bishops’ Conference has decided to set-up a “Care of Creation Office” this year.”   Bishop Nolan added:   “The Office’s aim will be to give practical advice and guidance: helping dioceses and parishes assess their carbon footprint and discern how to work towards carbon neutrality, it will be headed by Fr Gerard H Maguiness the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference.  God has honoured us by giving humanity the task of being a co-operator in the work of creation we hope our lives enhance and build-up that creation and pray that the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow later this year bear fruit for our planet.”   The announcement of the new office coincides with a National Pastoral letter from Scotland’s Bishops being distributed to all parishes for Pentecost Sunday (23 May 2021) on the theme of caring for creation. The letter marks the Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on the environment, Laudato Si’ and draws attention to the Christian message, that “we are all part of one human family and that we share a common home, means that our earth’s resources must be shared and used for the benefit of all”.   ENDS   Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 0141 221 116807968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org   Note to Editors:   The full text of the Pentecost pastoral Letter appears below:   Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of Scotland on the Sixth Anniversary of Laudato Si’ Pentecost 2021   God saw all that he had made and indeed it was very good.[1] God’s creation is a great gift to all humanity, and humanity itself is an integral part of that creation. We are blessed by having the earth for our common home. It is a place of great beauty, teeming with life of all kinds, a world full of wonderful resources which enable us not only to live but to enhance our way of life. In nature, God’s glory is revealed for all to see.[2] St Francis of Assisi was prominent among the saints in giving praise to God for the wonder of creation.[3] We have been entrusted by God with the care of the earth,[4] but sadly we have not just used the earth we have abused it. We are destroying the seas, polluting the atmosphere and consuming the abundant but limited resources of this world while neglecting the needs of our poor brothers and sisters and showing no concern for tomorrow. The earth, our common home, is given to all of humanity and its resources are not just for us to use now but to be preserved and passed on to future generations.[5] As Christians we thank God for gift of creation, but, because we have taken that gift for granted, when we look at creation as it is now we are conscious of the failings of humanity; we are conscious of the need for what the gospel calls “metanoia”,[6] not just sorrow for the abuse of creation, not just a change of heart, but a change of life and how we live our lives.[7] A very solid scientific consensus[8] tells us that human activity has brought the earth to a crisis point and that action is needed that is both urgent and deep rooted, particularly due to CO2 emissions. Governments have a responsibility to work together, and with haste, to reduce emissions to a safe level. Governments als...

Scottish Bishops offer support to Catholic Church in Ireland

| 28th April 2021 | Blogging

Scottish Bishops offer support to Catholic Church in Ireland   28 April 2021   Commenting on the recent decision by the Irish Government to enact restrictions which do not allow public worship, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert has issued the following statement:   “As the Catholic Church in Scotland this year celebrates the 1500th Anniversary of the birth of St Columba who brought the faith from Ireland to Scotland in the 6th century, the thoughts and prayers of the Church in Scotland are now directed to our brothers and sisters in Ireland.”   “Recent developments that penalise the celebration of Holy Mass have been disturbing not only to the Irish Bishops’ Conference but also to the Bishops of Scotland. We all recognise the need for restrictions to protect the common good of all people in a pandemic but to enact legislation that criminalises those who gather to celebrate Holy Mass is indeed extreme and unjust.”   “May the strong bonds between the Catholic Church in Ireland and Scotland established by St Patrick, St Columba, the Celtic saints and the faith of our forebears reassure our brothers and sisters in Ireland that they are not alone and are always in our prayers.”   ENDS Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 0141 221 116807968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org      ...