The Hate Crime Bill and the Bible

 

Letter in Dundee Courier; Watching out for religious hatred 

Sir, – 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.

We fully intend to monitor all Holy Books, sermons in places of worship and the social media accounts of the various religions and report any hatred to Police Scotland for criminal investigation.

Ian Stewart, Convener, Atheist Scotland, Park Avenue, Dundee.

Christian News  takes Mr Stewart very seriously:

If passed, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill would criminalise words deemed “likely” to “stir up hatred” against particular groups. It would not require any proof of intent.

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, warned against “the dangerous new ‘stirring up hatred’ offences”, saying that “they will give politically-motivated complainants like Mr Stewart a powerful weapon against their ideological opponents.”

He commented: “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?

Mr Calvert also pointed out that “Thankfully, Mr Stewart does not represent all atheists.”

The organisation “Atheist Scotland” does not seem to exist. But “Ian Stewart” sounds like someone I would like to get to know. The pending Hate Crime bill would certainly give him plenty of scope to carry out his threat, since it creates an offence of abusive speech likely to stir up hatred, whether there is any intent to stir up hatred and whether any hatred is stirred up or not, against members of various groups. Using the definitions in the Bill, these groups would include believers in different religions from the speaker, believers in no religion, homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers, all of whom you will find vilified in the Bible, while the Westminster Confession of Faith condemns all non-Christians to eternal conscious torment and serve them right.

The reality of course is that all the UK’s major secularists and humanist organisations, as well as a coalition ranging from the Free Church of Scotland to the Roman Catholics, have called (see e.g. Free to Disagree) for this bill in anything like its present form to be scrapped. There is no precedent for such diversity of opinion uniting around a cause, and for this, if nothing else, the Justice Minister is to be congratulated.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on August 31, 2020, in Politics, Religion, Scotland, Society and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This letter exchange was reported in The Times. It was unclear whether the reporter understood that the atheist’s letter was tongue-in-cheek. Since Justice Minister Humza Yousaf is a Muslim (isn’t he?) a better tactic could be pointing out that criminalisation of words “likely” to “stir up hatred” would outlaw publication of the Koran,.

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    • Thanks. Do you have a link or a copy? To me, the best of the joke is that Christian News didn’t realise it was tongue in cheek. “Ian Stewart” said “all holy books”. I specified the Bible simply because it is the only text with which I am sufficiently familiar.

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    • Paywall; but from what I can see *either* The Times swallowed it,*or* they are playing their part in keeipng the jokegoing

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      • Sorry about the paywall, here’s the article:

        “An atheist has pledged to use hate crime legislation being proposed for Scotland to close down organised religion and silence “Holy Willies”.

        Ian Stewart said that he recognised “some merit” in the bill being brought forward by Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary, as it would enable the prosecution of religions for spreading hatred.

        In a letter that appeared to offer little hope of compromise, Mr Stewart, the convener of Atheist Scotland, went on: “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.”

        Writing to the Dundee newspaper The Courier, he said that if the legisation were passed then his organisation fully intended “to monitor all Holy Books, sermons in places of worship and the social media accounts of the various religions and report any hatred to Police Scotland for criminal investigation”.

        Mr Stewart’s “tirade” was held up by the Christian Institute as “the perfect illustration” of the failings of the Hate Crimes and Public Order Bill. Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs for the organisation, said the Scottish government was playing a dangerous game, adding: “The offences would give politically motivated complainants a powerful weapon against ideological opponents.”

        “The Scottish government has said “People can express controversial, challenging or offensive views as long as this is not done in a threatening or abusive way that is intended or likely to stir up hatred. The bill includes explicit provisions on protection of freedom of expression.” “

        Liked by 1 person

      • The careless truncation of the Times article suggests that no thought was involved in writing it, so my question was meaingless. But I’m very glad that lots more people will have seen the story

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  2. Sounds like the first steps in spreading the validity of controlling thought processes and setting up a Thought Police State.

    I think that I’d rather maintain the current imperfections and rely on the evolving maturity of sects to live side-by-side with atheists, agnostics and those practising different moral cultures.

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