A vague new hate-crime law under consideration in Scotland could criminalise basic Christian worship, even if the worship is done in someone's own home. That is the conclusion of
The U.K.'s Christian Institute who warn the new law could restrict Christians' freedom to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation or to call people to repent of sin, even in church. That's because it could offend anti-religious people, or those of other faiths.
"Conduct need not be threatening or even intended to stir up hatred for an offence to be committed. Instead, the bill captures any abusive behaviour deemed likely to stir up hatred. An offence could even be unwittingly committed in the privacy of your own home," the Christian Institute said.
"The proposal could be used as a weapon against those of Christian faith" the institute said.
"Many who oppose biblical truth claim that disagreeing with them amounts to hatred. The proposed 'stirring up hatred' offences would give those hostile to Christianity a new tool to try to close down debate and silence Christians."
The government's Justice Committee recently accepted comments on the idea of expanding the existing law, which covers race. Lawmakers have proposed adding other "protected" characteristics, such as sexual orientation and transgender identity. However, we know that the Hate Speech laws are already misused by certain sections of society and this is seen by many as giving those misusing it further ammunition.
The institute goes on to say "While Christians would never support genuinely threatening or abusive behaviour, it is difficult to approve of this bill because of some of the things it includes – not least the new 'stirring up hatred’ offences,"
The bill also lacks key safeguards that appeared in similar legislation in England and Wales.
"Such laws, especially in today’s climate, would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on free speech. Think of how it could impact student evangelism, a church’s outreach work or Christians seeking to debate moral and ethical issues," the institute said.
"We know the gospel will be offensive to many. It tells people they are sinful, that their conduct separates them from God, and that there is no way to heaven except through Jesus. And what’s more, Christians can’t shy away from saying that. Romans 1:16 says 'I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Unfortunately, in a culture where people seem increasingly unable to shrug off that with which they disagree, it is only a matter of time before the police are dragged into the matter." The new plan does not exclude even church services from the ire of antagonists.
"A Sunday morning sermon where Christ is preached as the only saviour and all religions are said to be false, or where homosexual behaviour is said to be sinful, could see the preacher prosecuted for stirring up hatred," the institute warned.