Earlier this year, Scotland was on the verge of banning the “crime” of blasphemy. The nation had proposed a new Hate Crimes Bill, designed to modernize the law, that included a clause abolishing “blasphemy” as a crime. That was great news!
But the draft bill included a section that criminalized “stirring up hatred” against various groups… including the religious.
Somehow, blasphemy would be eliminated… but hurting religious sensibilities could be prosecuted. It made no sense and it failed to resolve the problem it was attempting to fix.
Here’s the good news: Yesterday, Scotland’s Justice Secretary announced that the controversial portion of the Hate Crimes Bill would be eliminated:
Scottish Justice Minister Humza Yousaf today announced that the Government will drop sections of the draft Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill that would have criminalised insulting religious beliefs. The Bill will now protect ‘antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult’ of religious beliefs, as part of people’s legitimate right to freedom of expression. Humanists UK, which supported a campaign led by Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) in favour of these precise changes, has welcomed the announcement.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson added:
The importance of freedom of expression and the right to freely criticise beliefs and ideas of fundamental importance, religious or otherwise, cannot be overstated. We have strongly supported the Scottish Government in its plans to repeal the common law offence of blasphemy in Scotland and with this latest announcement our fears that this Bill would create anew those same restrictions have been allayed.
It’s good news that occurred as a a result of public pressure and outright mockery. But, hey, whatever works. Crisis averted for now. Blasphemy will not be prosecuted. Now it’s up to critics of religion to use that power as effectively as they can.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)