Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Christian homes need to beware of the hate police


AN Englishman’s home is his castle. In 1763 prime minister Pitt the Elder stated, ‘The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter.’ Not so for the Scotsman of today if the separatist SNP have their way.

Humza Yousaf, Justice Secretary in Scotland’s increasingly authoritarian SNP government, intends to clamp down on hate speech within the confines of private homes under his sinister proposed legislation, the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill. In ‘hate’ legislation elsewhere in the UK there can be a ‘dwelling defence’ which protects speech within the home from police intervention. Not so for Scotland if Yousaf has his way.

Responding to questions from the Holyrood parliament’s Justice Committee, which has the responsibility of scrutinising proposed legislation, Yousaf refused to provide a ‘dwelling defence’, insisting that ‘hateful speech’ in the home deserves to be criminalised.

The proposed legislation criminalises hate speech relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics. ‘Are we comfortable giving a defence to somebody whose behaviour is threatening or abusive, which is intentionally stirring up hatred against, for example, Muslims? Are we saying that that is justified because that is in the home? . . . If your intention was to stir up hatred against Jews . . . then I think that deserves criminal sanction,’ Yousaf told the committee.

During the debate Conservative MSP Adam Tompkins, convener of the committee and a law professor at Glasgow University, asked Yousaf how it was possible to commit an ‘offence of public order’ in private, to which Yousaf replied that if the intent to stir up hatred is present in a private dwelling, that deserves criminal sanction. However, in today’s victim culture open debate can too easily be construed as the result of an intention to ‘stir up hatred’ by some who find their particular worldview being rejected.

Yousaf’s proposed Hate Speech Bill has met opposition from a broad spectrum of opinion including the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Police Federation. It is rare to find the Catholic Church and the Humanist Society of Scotland lining up alongside each other in the culture war trenches.

This Bill is of deep concern to Christians. Concerning its effect on free speech including preaching, the Free Church of Scotland said: ‘We do not consider the protections to free speech offered in the draft in any way strong enough to prevent a major erosion of this fundamental tenet of a democratic society. Too many people automatically view disagreement as hatred rather than engaging in civilised debate over differing opinions.’

That this alarming legislation is wide open to abuse has already been made clear. In August, Ian Stewart, head of Atheists in Scotland, said that he looked forward to the passing of the Bill, which could be used to ‘enable the prosecution of all Scotland’s religions and their holy books for spreading hatred’.

Under this law the Bible could be at risk of being considered offensive material. The Scottish Catholic bishops stated that the Bill ‘creates an offence of possessing inflammatory material which, if taken with the low threshold contained therein, could render material such as the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other texts such as Bishops’ Conference of Scotland submissions to government consultations as being inflammatory under the new provision.’

It is the proposal to police what people say in their own homes which is most chilling. Lord Bracadale, one of Scotland’s senior judges whose review of hate crime legislation led to the Bill, told the committee that he did not recommend removing the ‘dwelling defence’ and said MSPs’ concerns that it could intrude into private homes were ‘well founded’. 

Christians are a minority in Scotland and our beliefs are neither accepted nor understood by many. Nevertheless Christians are open to debate and discussion with any who wish to challenge our beliefs. Although we do not express our views with an intent to stir up hatred, the effect of this Bill will be that normal Christian activity can be open to police investigation and prosecution. Open and honest debate will be closed down and Christians reduced to self-censorship in case we inadvertently lay ourselves open to complaints from those who simply disagree with us.

If the Bill is passed Christians will be in danger of prosecution for saying things which we believe are taught in Scripture. This is troubling for all Christians; that it may well apply not only in public places but in our own homes is especially troubling. If a Christian were to hold a neighbourhood home Bible Study and during that expressed the opinion that Muhammad was a false prophet who has led countless millions astray, this could possibly be reported to the police as the hate crime of ‘Islamophobia’ and require investigation.

Yousaf told the Justice Committee that children, family and house guests must be protected from hate speech. In Scottish schools children from Christian homes are subjected to relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) teaching, much of which is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. Conscientious Christian parents will attempt to counter this by teaching their children the biblical stance with regard to sexual morality. If during a RSHP lesson a boy or girl were to put up their hand and say, ‘But my Mum and Dad told me that’s wrong,’ it is possible that the Christian parents could receive a visit from the police questioning them on what they taught their own children in the privacy of their own home.

The intention of this legislation is not to protect people from hurtful language but to enforce conformity to progressive ethics. Christians have no option but to oppose it.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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