CNA Staff, Feb 15, 2021 / 15:52 pm
The Catholic bishops of Scotland, along with several other Christian groups, are speaking out against a proposed “hate crimes” law in the country that they say could interfere with the free exercise of religion.
“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,” the coalition wrote a Feb. 12 letter to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.
“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.”
The Catholic bishops’ conference, represented by Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, joined with representatives of the Free Church of Scotland and the Evangelical Alliance Scotland to draft the letter.
The Scottish government introduced the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill during April 2020 in response to a 2017 independent review of hate crime laws led by Alastair Campbell, Lord Bracadale, a retired judge. The government argues the bill modernizes, consolidates, and extends existing hate crime legislation. It also abolishes the offense of blasphemy.
The proposed legislation creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected groups covered by the bill, which include race, religion, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.