The Catholic Bishops have said the Hate Crimes Bill in Scotland could criminalize the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In a statement released on July 29, the bishops argued that the Scottish government’s new Hate Crimes and Public Order Bill could lead to censorship of Catholic education.
“We are also concerned that clause 5 of the bill creates an offense of possession of inflammatory material which, if caught with the low threshold it contains, could render materials such as the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other texts such as the Book of Bishops Scottish Conference submissions to government consultations, as inflammatory under the new provision,” they said.
The bishops made the comments in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, which is considering the bill. The bill was introduced by the Scottish government on April 23.
The bill creates a new crime of incitement to hatred against any of the protected groups covered by the bill, including race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
The bishops cited their recent submission to the government on the proposed revision of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, in which they set out the teaching of the Church “that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable, and that the man and the woman are complementary and ordered towards the creation of a new life.
They said: “Such statements, which are widely held, could be perceived by others as an abuse of their own personal worldview and likely to stir up hatred.”
The bishops also noted that recently public figures have been accused of “transphobia” for arguing that men cannot become women and vice versa. Among them is “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling, who lives in Scotland.
“Many have also been accused of hate for using pronouns that correspond to an individual’s biological sex or birth. The freedom to express these arguments and beliefs must be protected,” they wrote.
Commenting on the Bishops’ submission, Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland, said: “While acknowledging that incitement to hatred is morally wrong and supporting measures to discourage and condemn such behaviour, The bishops have expressed concern about a 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”.
He continued: “A new offense of possession of incendiary material could even incendiary materials such as the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catholic 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. To allow respectful debate is to avoid censorship and to accept the divergent points of view and the multitude of arguments that populate society.
The Scottish government proposed the bill in response to an independent review of hate crime laws led by retired judge Lord Bracadale. The government argues that the bill modernizes, consolidates and expands existing hate crime legislation. It also abolishes the offense of blasphemy.
In their submission, the bishops said they had no objection to the proposal to abolish the common law of blasphemy, which has not been prosecuted in Scotland for more than 175 years.
But the bishops have said they fear the bill will fuel a “cancellation culture”.
“The growth of what some describe as ‘cancellation culture’ – stalking those who disagree with mainstream orthodoxies with the intention of evicting the nonconforming from public discourse and with callous disregard for their livelihoods – is of deep concern,” they said. wrote.
“No section of society has power over acceptable and unacceptable speech or expression. While the legislature and judiciary must create and interpret laws to maintain public order, they must do so with care, taking into account fundamental freedoms and having regard to reasonable opinions, the expression of which is not intended to cause harm.