After JK Rowling's bold stand against Scotland's new hate crime laws, Christians hope for the best

New hate crime laws came into force in Scotland on 1 April.(Photo: Unsplash)

The Christian Institute has said that for now, "the law is still on the side of free speech" after worrying new hate crime laws came into force in Scotland earlier this month. 

There have been fears that the laws would clamp down on civil and religious liberties, affecting especially Christians and critics of gender ideology. 

After Police Scotland said that JK Rowling's tweets calling transgender women men were not a crime, The Christian Institute said that "we can be confident Christian views aren't either".

The final wording of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act includes protections for speech that may offend, shock or disturb others, and religious protections that include proclaiming Christ as the only Saviour. A free speech clause protects discussions around sexual orientation and transgenderism. 

"Taken together, this package of measures means the Act, properly applied, should not affect the freedom of Christians to wisely and faithfully declare biblical truth," Simon Calvert, Deputy Director (Public Affairs) at The Christian Institute.

However, the organisation said that "confusing messaging" from Police Scotland and the Scottish government had "seriously exacerbated the chilling effect" on debate.

It said it will continue to campaign for the 'stirring up hatred' offence to be repealed.

"It would be better if the 'stirring up hatred' offence had not been introduced. It should be repealed. Vexatious complaints and a chilling effect on debate were inevitable," said Mr Calvert.

"The Scottish Government was reckless to introduce such a law in our censorious culture, where disagreement is often portrayed as hatred." 

The Christian Institute said it remained to be seen whether police officers would properly apply the law, pointing the case of street preacher Angus Cameron who was arrested in Glasgow city centre for a supposed 'hate crime' after a complaint from a member of the public about using "homophobic language", which he denied. 

He was supported by The Christian Institute in taking legal action against Police Scotland and in January won £5,500 for unlawful detention and £9,400 in legal costs.

Mr Calvert asked Christians to pray for religious freedom in Scotland.

"Under intense pressure, Police Scotland has been quick to say, rightly, that JK Rowling's tweets weren't a crime. We can be confident Christian views aren't either," he continued. 

"Yet we saw with Angus Cameron's case that police officers don't always understand the law. Given that, at best, they've only had two hours of online training on the new Act, there's a real danger of similar mistakes.

"Better public messaging and better police training is essential to make sure this doesn't happen. And we are continuing to call for the ludicrous policy of recording 'non-crime hate incidents' (like the one involving Angus Cameron) to be abandoned.

"Please give thanks for the gospel freedom we enjoy, and pray it will continue to be upheld."