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4/9/2024 Scotland (International Christian Concern) – On April 1, the Scottish Parliament officially passed the Hate Crime and Public Order Act, which creates restrictions that punish hate speech. Critics of the act are concerned it could criminalize religious views regarding gender and sexuality.

The act, which received mass criticism in Scotland, defines the offense as a person either behaving “in a manner that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening, abusive or insulting, or communicate(ing) to another person material that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening.” 

Once the legal counsel meets this portion of the offense, they must prove that the offender either intended to “stir up hatred against a group of persons based on the group being defined by reference to race, color, nationality, or ethnic or national origins” or “a reasonable person would consider the behavior or the communication of the material to be likely to result in hatred being stirred up against such a group.” 

While the limits defined by the bill may seem extreme and unreasonable, other countries with Hate Speech laws, such as the United Kingdom and others across the European Union, have prosecuted Christians for voicing their opinions regarding issues of gender or sexuality. While many would not perceive the actions as threatening or harmful, others continually express personal offense they take by the words of others. While no bill is perfect, the Hate Crime and Public Order Act does provide the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects “ideas that offend, shock, or disturb.” 

Protection of human rights and freedom of speech is a top priority for many Western democracies, including the United States. However, with continued advances toward broadening the definitions and punishments for hate speech, the West is experiencing a deterioration in the practice of freedom of thought, conscience, and speech.

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