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Stand up for freedom

Could you respond to the Scottish government's consultation on hate crime?

The Scottish Government is in the process of developing new hate crime legislation and has asked citizens to respond with their thoughts on what shape these new laws should take.

The Scottish Government is in the process of developing new hate crime legislation and has asked citizens to respond with their thoughts on what shape these new laws should take.

At the Evangelical Alliance, we believe that malicious crime is abhorrent, and we want to ensure that the law effectively protects people from it.

But, without care, hate crime legislation could end up failing to protect people, especially where freedoms of speech, expression and religion are concerned. That’s why we would like you to respond to the consultation with your views.

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Reform on hate crime is a complex and, at times, challenging area of work, and the Evangelical Alliance will respond in detail to this consultation. You may recall that we have spoken about this recently, particularly in relation to the Dear Bigots hate crime posters in the autumn.

However, we think that these challenges present an opportunity to stand up for freedom. A key recommendation of the recent hate crime review by Lord Bracadale is that in any new law there is an explicit protection for freedom of expression, something that is largely in place in England and Wales. It is vital that any new legislation contains adequate protections across all forms of expression so that in contentious areas, honest disagreement is not deemed synonymous with hate. 

We would particularly like you to respond to question 26 of the consultation, which asks whether there should be specific exemptions to new hate-crime offences, to exclude expression of a contrary view from being defined as hate. 

So, if you live in Scotland, please respond to the consultation before Sunday, 24 February to let the Scottish Government know how important this is. 

Why should this matter to evangelicals?

As Christians, we believe that all people are created equally in the image of God, with inherent dignity. We are called to live by the command, which Jesus identified as the second great commandment (Matthew 22:39), to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

Personal hatred goes against this biblical teaching and the example of Jesus, who was full of both grace and truth. No one should be subject to bullying, assault or threats of violence for any reason, including their possession of any protected characteristics.

We also recognise the diversity within our nation and the challenges that can be caused by hatred, to individuals and within groups. But this is also why we need a society in which all can bring their views and express them with respect, even when there are differences. 

The recent Ashers Supreme Court case highlighted that it is a fundamental principle to be allowed to express your views and not be compelled to express views that you do not hold. 

As Christians, we follow and proclaim the gospel in this diverse society, realising that it is a beautiful, challenging and, for some, offensive message. But, freedom only to express ideas that are popular is no freedom at all. We recognise that many may choose to reject the good news, but we remain committed to ensuring that Christians retain the freedom to proclaim Jesus and to live out their faith.

This is where our main concern lies with this consultation: that such freedom of expression should be protected in all forms in the law that comes into effect. This is also opportunity to give your views on the importance of freedom of expression, particularly in the context of our most profound differences. 

Writer George Orwell famously said: If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Ideas can be dangerous things. Especially those ideas that seek to challenge or even change the status quo. But, we believe that in a free society, as long as no one is inciting violence, there has to be the right to be wrong. 

Find out more and read our guidance on responding to the consultation.

About the author

Kieran joined the Evangelical Alliance Scotland team in 2012. Prior to this he worked for MSPs at the Scottish parliament for three years, with spells in both Edinburgh and Inverness. Before this he spent a number of years working in youth and community work in the housing estates of his native Glasgow. Kieran helps the Evangelical Alliance connect with politicians in Holyrood and local government, connects with national and local media, and also provides support and encouragement to churches, organisations and individual Christians trying to engage with wider Scottish society.

See more from Kieran Turner

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