A partnership between the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Evangelical Alliance has arisen in response to Scotland’s “Hate Crime and Public Order” bill, which they claim would be detrimental to free speech, open debate, and religious freedom.
In a letter to Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the representatives say they disapprove of the bill because it includes “plans to create new offences without intent, offences related to inflammatory material and the protection of free speech.”
“As Christians, we do not always agree with one another and know that many do not necessarily share or even understand our beliefs, but we are utterly committed to the free and open exchange of ideas in society,” the letter reads. “We believe that people should be completely free to disagree with our faith in any way, including mocking and ridiculing us. We are convinced that our faith is true and has a sufficient evidential basis to withstand any criticism, we therefore welcome open debate.”
Despite previously meeting with the government and robustly discussing their concerns, the religious leaders still find themselves worried over the provisions and reach of the bill. One major concern relates to the bill’s approach to sexual orientation and transgender identity.
“In both these areas we must be careful to distinguish between hateful, nasty, vicious, or malevolent attacks on the person on one hand, and disagreement or dispute with an ideological position on the other,” their letter says. “While welcoming the inclusion of protection for discussion of criticism of sexual conduct and practices, we urge the Scottish Parliament to extend this to also allow for discussion and criticism of marriage which concerns the sex of the parties to the marriage.”
The transgender issue in particular appears to be a sticking point for these representatives, who flatly refused to accept that “any position or opinion at variance with the proposition that sex (or gender) is fluid and changeable should not be heard.” Open, honest discussions on the nature of the human person “should never be stifled,” they said.
Back in July 2020 the Scottish Police Federation warned that this hate crime bill, if they were to enforce it, could “devastate the legitimacy of the police service” because it criminalizes speech—even speech uttered in private.
The federation claimed that an intended provision would grant police the powers of search and entry to investigate so-called speech crimes, and that the bill itself even goes so far as to criminalize “the mere likelihood of ‘stirring up hatred.'”
At the end of the day, according to the federation, the bill is “too vague to be implemented,” so even if it is passed, it does not sound like the Scottish police are too keen on enforcing it. That’s about as good of an outcome as you can have when a bill like this becomes law.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott Pledges to Outlaw Big Tech Censorship
Texas has had enough.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is pledging to outlaw Big Tech’s left-wing censorship, announcing his support of a bill in the Texas State Senate that would open social media monopolies to lawsuits from users at a state level.
State Senator Bryan Hughes Senate Bill 12 would provide legal recourse for users of Big Tech platforms who are banned from the services to return, designating Big Tech monopolies such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook as common carriers.
“They are common carriers and they cannot discriminate against people … it’s a violation of the first amendment,” Hughes said. “This is going to protect Texas’ free speech and get them back online.”
I am joining @SenBryanHughes to announce a bill prohibiting social media companies from censoring viewpoints.
It's un-American, Un-Texan, & soon to be illegal.https://t.co/zSdirRa1pj
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 5, 2021
“These are the areas that used to be the courthouse square where people would come and talk,” said Abbott of the legislation. “Now, people are going to Facebook and Twitter to talk about their political ideas, and what Facebook and Twitter are doing — they are controlling the flow of information, and sometimes denying the flow of information.”
“Texas is taking a stand against big tech political censorship. We are not going to allow it in the Lone Star state.”
The law establishing legal recourse against online censorship may prove legally durable enough to avoid breaching Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That law provides immunity for user-created content on internet platforms, and doesn’t give social media platforms a right to discriminate against active or potential users on the basis of political ideology.
The future for fighting Big Tech censorship lies at a state level. While some state Republican officials have proven reluctant to separate themselves from the lucrative business lobbies of Big Tech oligarchs, Hughes’ approach seems legally innovative enough to give free speech defenders a fighting shot at free expression online.
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