Catholic beliefs could equate to hate crimes

Catholic beliefs on gay marriage and abortion could be considered hate crimes in Scotland, say leaders of the Catholic Church there.

Following last year’s review of hate crimes by retired judge Lord Bracadale, the church, in a submission to the Scottish government, asked for more discussion.

The church submission suggests holding to Catholic beliefs, particularly those in relation to marriage or sexuality, may soon be deemed “an attempt to stir up hatred”.

Public consultation about the review considered a provision in Bracadale’s report that protecting freedom of expression be included in any new legislation relating to stirring up offences.

The church welcomed the provision, saying today’s “climate of heightened sensitivity” and the increasingly broad definitions of “hate crime” are putting freedom of speech and belief at risk.

Catholic Parliamentary Office Director Anthony Horan says it’s important to guard against a situation where expressing or holding individual or collective opinions or beliefs will become a hate crime.

Therefore, to ensure that freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion are protected is necessary, he says.

“Some people might suggest that expressing the Catholic church’s position on marriage or human sexuality could be an attempt to stir up hatred.

“This would obviously be wrong but, without room for robust debate and exchange of views, we risk becoming an intolerant, illiberal society.”

Sectarianism “does not need to be specifically addressed and defined as a hate crime”, Horan notes.

The Scottish Government is analysing the responses to the public consultation. It plans to consider them in shaping its Hate Crime Bill.

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