BY Daniel Harkins | March 22 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

2-hate

Holding Catholic beliefs could become a hate crime in Scotland, Church warns

There is a ‘very real danger’ that expressing Catholic beliefs will become a hate crime amid a ‘present culture of heightened sensitivity,’ the Church has warned.

The comments come in the Church’s submission to a Scottish Government consultation on hate crime legislation.

The consultation follows Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime in Scotland which was released last year and suggested changes to legislation.

In its response, the Church stressed that freedom of belief and religion must be upheld.

The consultation, which closed to responses in February, asked if respondents agreed with Lord Bracadale’s recommendation that ‘there should be a protection of freedom of expression provision for offences concerning the stirring up of hatred.’

In its response, the Church said that the ‘fundamental right to freedom of expression, as detailed in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, must be upheld.’

“Supressing this freedom will create divisions and foster grievances across society.

“There is a climate of heightened sensitivity in the present culture and there is a very real danger that expressing or even holding individual or collective opinions or beliefs will become a hate crime.

“We must guard against this and ensure basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9 of ECHR), are protected,” the Church said.

As an example, it said that ‘some people might suggest that expressing the Catholic Church’s position on marriage or human sexuality could be an attempt to stir up hatred.’

It added: “This would obviously be wrong. There must be room for robust debate and exchange of views. Otherwise we become an intolerant, illiberal society.”

 

Prejudice

Last year, the government launched a controversial ‘Dear Bigots’ campaign that was seen to be targeting people of Faith. The One Scotland campaign saw posters addressed to ‘bigots, disablists, homophobes, racists, and transphobes’ placed across the country.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said at the time that the campaign ‘suggested that religious hate crimes are perpetrated by religious believers, but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case,’ while Christian aid agency Barnabas Fund said the posters risked ‘stirring up’ religious prejudice.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act last week revealed that the Scottish Government had received scores of complaints about the campaign.

In letters to complainers and to MSPs and government ministers who received complaints from constituents, communities and local government secretary Aileen Campbell said the campaign was ‘absolutely not intended to target those of faith’ and she apologised if it ‘appeared to some’ that it did.

She admitted there is ‘no plans to re-use the ‘Dear Bigots’ letter in future.’

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