A coalition of Roman Catholics and evangelicals have united to urge the Scottish Government to drop part of its controversial hate crime Bill.
Representatives from the Catholic Parliamentary Office of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and Evangelical Alliance Scotland wrote to Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, following the Government’s decision to withdraw an amendment on transgender hate crimes.
The amendment would have protected the right to criticise radical gender ideology without fear of prosecution, but the SNP made a U-turn after the move drew criticism from LGBT activists.
In their letter, the signatories expressed concern that a generic “catch all” free speech statement would water down protections, leaving uncertainty for “prosecutors, courts and most importantly the general public”.
They highlighted in particular the approach taken to the issues of sexual orientation and transgender identity and said that in both areas, there was a need to distinguish between “vicious, or malevolent attacks on the person on one hand, and disagreement or dispute with an ideological position on the other”.
On same-sex marriage, they added: “When marriage between parties of the same sex was introduced in Scotland assurance was given that no religious body would be forced to conduct them, implicit in that assurance was protection for those who expressed doctrinal disagreement with such marriages.”
The signatories also said that radical gender ideology has been the subject of “extensive and emotional public discussion” in recent years, and explained that a freedom of speech clause relating specifically to transgenderism is “vital as society wrestles with these ideas”.
They said: “While we acknowledge the difficulties and struggles experienced by those with Gender Dysphoria and are acutely aware of the sensitivities involved from our own pastoral care settings, we cannot accept that any position or opinion at variance with the proposition that sex (or gender) is fluid and changeable should not be heard.
“Open and honest debate on the very essence of the human person should never be stifled. We believe provision must therefore be made in the bill for discussion and criticism of views on transgender identity without fear of criminal sanctions.
“A right to claim that binary sex does not exist or is fluid must be matched with a right to disagree with that opinion; and protection from prosecution for holding it.”
The Scottish Parliament has around four weeks to complete the passage of the Bill, which the representatives described as “extraordinarily tight” and “risks inadequate and ill-thought through legislation being passed”.
consider withdrawing the stirring up hatred offences in Part 2 of the bill
They concluded that, without a workable solution, the Scottish Government should “now consider withdrawing the stirring up hatred offences in Part 2 of the bill to allow more detailed consideration and discussion and to ensure freedom of expression provisions, which enshrine free and open debate, are afforded the scrutiny they require.”
The concerns echo those recently raised by Free to Disagree, the free speech campaign backed by The Christian Institute.
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