An atheist has written to a newspaper saying he welcomes Scotland’s proposed Hate Crimes Bill because he will be able to monitor all holy books and sermons and report any ‘hatred’ to the police.
The letter, by Ian Stewart, Convener of Atheist Scotland, stated, ‘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.’
He added, ‘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.’
Revd David Robertson, a former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said that Stewart’s letter ‘illustrates perfectly’ why the legislation should not be made law.
Robertson said that Stewart incorrectly ‘regards any disagreements with any of his fundamental beliefs as self-evident “hate”’.
He added: ‘He is, in effect, saying that we should all be closed down unless we accept his authoritarian morality.’
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill is highly controversial. It would criminalise words deemed ‘likely’ to ‘stir up hatred’ against particular groups. It would not require any proof of intent.
A campaign group – Free to Disagree – has been formed to oppose the legislation. It is backed by Christian organisations and also the National Secular Society.
Journalists, judges, and the police have all voiced concerns about the planned legislation. Even BBC Scotland has raised objections.
BBC Scotland said it ‘strongly shares’ concerns expressed by the Scottish Newspaper Society about the bill’s ‘impact on freedom of expression’.
There has been an ‘unprecedented’ response to the Justice Committee’s consultation on the legislation, attracting almost 2,000 submissions.
Spokesman for the Free to Disagree campaign, Jamie Gillies, commented, ‘These submissions to the Justice Committee add more fuel to the fire currently raging beneath the Scottish Government’s hate crime proposals.’
‘Even the BBC’, he added, ‘has recognised the danger that these plans present to fundamental freedoms.’
Mike Judge, editor