31. Jul, 2020

Suppressing Faith and Free Speech

Suppressing Faith and Free Speech: A Lesson from Scotland


Millenarianism: [Latin: ‘mīllēnārius’ - containing a thousand.] Originally, the doctrine of or belief in a future (and typically imminent) thousand-year age of blessedness, beginning with or culminating in the Second Coming of Christ. In socio-political terms used to denote the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming fundamental transformation of society of which they are in the vanguard.  Also Utopianism.

 

The problem with millenarians of any shade is that they are, necessarily, possessed with the ‘Truth’: they have seen the vision; they have spoken with the Great Panjandrum and they know; they have the answers and, if we would only do as they tell us, we will all be saved from damnation.

Such possessed souls, dare I call them zealots, are always a potential danger to society. They are impossible to reason with – because they alone are possessed of the Truth – and any questioning of their credentials is beyond the shadow of reasonableness. How can you doubt them? ‘Believe me’ is their watchword.

Should enough of these souls gather together to press the matter the rest of us are in for a hard-time.    

Thus, we face a societal crisis of culture and identity largely brought about by contemporary social engineering driven by sufficient numbers of socio-political millenarians who are totally possessed with the truth of their societal ideal. Should we disagree with them - well one such previous group of gentle souls, some eighty years ago, consigned such doubters to gas chambers; another group of splendid idealists either shot or despatched to Siberia their own Doubting Toms, whilst another Asiatic Great Leader simply shot any perverse souls who doubted his vision. More modern history remains replete with examples of the exercise of power by those so fortunately are possessed of the Truth.

In our own various Western societies those fortunate few so blessed know how to put the screws on us, rather dimmer souls, who need leading into the nourishing and nurturing uplands of their salvation. They brand us as bigots, far-rightists, racists, privileged, sexists, carnivores, trouser-wearers, misogynists, males, possessors of false consciousness and, the most damning of all epithets – Christians.  

To this end, my attention was drawn to a news headline this week to which I reacted with weary despair: Now loving Jesus IN YOUR OWN HOME could be a 'hate crime'. [1]

I will spare you the details of my research into the origins of this story but I finally ascertained, from the Scottish Parliament website:

Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill

The Bill is a response to the recommendations made in Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime laws.

The Bill has been created to make sure that the groups covered by the Bill are protected from hate crimes. It also makes sure that the laws that provide that protection are fit for the 21st century.

Crimes motivated by prejudice will be treated more seriously and will not be tolerated by society. The Bill has been created to make this clear to victims, those who commit hate crimes, and the wider society.

You can find out more in the Policy Memorandum document that explains the Bill.[2]

This is of course all most innocuous sounding and surely people of good faith could find no fault with its intent. As ever the devil is in the detail.

The vagueness of the Bill should be subject to intense question lest it criminalize something people do, albeit unwittingly, in their homes.

The Christian Institute [UK] warns that the Bill could restrict Christians' freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation or to call people to repent of sin, "even in church" because it could offend irreligious or anti-religious people.[3]

"Conduct need not be threatening or even intended to stir up hatred for an offense to be committed. Instead, the bill captures any abusive behaviour deemed likely to stir up hatred. An offense could even be unwittingly committed in the privacy of your own home," the Christian Institute said.

"And there is not nearly enough protection for free speech," it continued. Indeed, the proposal could be used as a weapon against people of faith.

"Many who oppose biblical truth claim that disagreeing with them amounts to hatred. The proposed 'stirring up hatred' offenses would give those hostile to Christianity a new tool to try to close down debate and silence Christians."

The government's Justice Committee recently accepted comments on the idea of expanding the existing law, which covers race. Lawmakers have proposed adding other "protected" characteristics, such as sexual orientation and transgender identity.

"While Christians would never support genuinely threatening or abusive behaviour, it is difficult to approve of this bill because of some of the things it includes – not least the new 'stirring up hatred’ offenses," the report said.

The bill also lacks key safeguards that appeared in similar legislation in England and Wales.

"Such laws, especially in today’s climate, would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on free speech. Think of how it could impact student evangelism, a church’s outreach work or Christians seeking to debate moral and ethical issues," the Institute said.

Especially in the bull's-eye would be churches, it said.

"We know the gospel will be offensive to many. It tells people they are sinful, that their conduct separates them from God, and that there is no way to heaven except through Jesus. And what’s more, Christians can’t shy away from saying that. Romans 1:16 says 'I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes,'" the report said.

"This means if Christians stick to their convictions, standing by the gospel and continuing to explain to people what the Bible says about matters such as sexuality and diversity of religions, then they will inevitably offend. Unfortunately, in a culture where people seem increasingly unable to shrug off that with which they disagree, it is only a matter of time before the police are dragged into the matter."

The new plan does not exclude even church services from the ire of antagonists.

"A Sunday morning sermon where Christ is preached as the only saviour and all religions are said to be false, or where homosexual behaviour is said to be sinful, could see the preacher prosecuted for stirring up hatred," the Institute warned.

Following this story I was alerted to an article by a Katrine Bussey in The Scotsman yesterday [30 July 2020]: Bishops fear owning a Bible could be hate crime offence under new Scots law.[4]

She observed that Scotland’s Catholic bishops have raised concerns that possessing the Bible could become an offence under proposed new hate crime legislation.

Indeed, the Catholic Church has become the latest organisation to raise its concerns about the controversial Bill

The Church made a submission to the parliamentary Justice Committee, who are scrutinising the reforms. The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said: “Any new law must be carefully weighed against fundamental freedoms, such as the right to free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” With section five of the legislation creating an offence of possessing inflammatory material, they fear the “low threshold” in the proposed new laws “could render material such as the Bible ... as being inflammatory under the new provision”.[5]

The new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill will, if passed, also create an offence of “stirring up hatred” against a protected group, expanding on existing laws protecting racial groups.

The bishops warned “how hatred is defined is not clear which leaves it open to wide interpretation”, adding this “could lead to vexatious claims having to be dealt with by police”. In their submission they also stressed “criminalising conduct is a serious step that should not be taken lightly”. They argued rights to freedom of expression “must be robust enough to protect the freedom to disagree”.

The bishops highlighted their belief, published in response to the Scottish Government’s proposed reforms of gender recognition, that a person’s sex and gender are “not fluid and changeable”. Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic parliamentary office, said: “Whilst acknowledging that stirring up of hatred is morally wrong and supporting moves to discourage and condemn such behaviour, the bishops have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity around definitions.” Its submission comes after The Law Society of Scotland said it had “significant reservations regarding a number of the Bill’s provisions and the lack of clarity”.

It is significant to note that opposition to the Bill has been expressed by other than Christian organisations. The Scottish Police Federation has also claimed the Bill “appears to paralyse freedom of speech in Scotland”.

The Federation said the Bill could mean officers "determining free speech".

Quite obviously the policing of what Scots "think or feel" and criminalising private conversation has left the Federation most uneasy.[6]

Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "We have significant reservations regarding a number of the Bill's provisions and the lack of clarity, which could in effect lead to restrictions in freedom of expression, one of the foundations of a democratic society.”[7]

This egregious Bill was introduced into parliament by the Scottish National Party’s Justice Minister, Humza Haroon Yousaf SMP, on 23 April 2020. It is currently at stage one of three before it is enacted as law.

How such a rebellious, irascible and freedom loving peoples as the Scots actually countenanced the idea, let alone the reality, of such Draconian legislation beggars belief. Moreover, it says much about the Scottish National Party that sought fit to introduce it – Scottish nationalism in chains to millenarian and authoritarian Diktat. Good one Nicola Sturgeon.     

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