Pastor warned by police not to share Bible’s position on homosexuality

A pastor in Cornwall has been advised by the police not to offend LGBT people after he celebrated the cancellation of a gay pride event on Facebook.When Cornwall Pride announced its annual march would not go ahead this year following concerns about social distancing, Pastor Josh Williamson of Newquay Baptist Church called it “Wonderful news”.

When challenged, he said it was because he did not like to see sin celebrated, and quoted from the Bible to support his position.

Threats

Posting on his own Facebook account the pastor also wrote: “Hallelujah!! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be cancelled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organisers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered.”

Cornwall Pride responded by sharing this with its supporters, as well as negative comments about Pride made by people who do not appear to be connected to the church, leading to threats against Williamson and his wife.

Christian Concern, which is supporting Williamson, said that LGBT activists threatened to protest his Sunday services, and to get the pastor deported to his native Australia.

It said Cornwall Pride also encouraged its supporters to report Williamson to the police for a ‘hate crime’.

Avoid offence

Following this, the pastor was invited to meet with members of Cornwall Pride to talk about his views. Williamson attended and handed out copies of a tract debunking arguments commonly used to argue for LGBT affirmation in the church.

This was shared widely online and culminated in activists threatening to burn the church or hold orgies in it.

When Williamson reported the threats to Devon and Cornwall Police, he was told the situation was “complex” and that they did not think the threats were serious.

Instead it told him that in future he should avoid offending anyone in the LGBT community to ensure he did not break the law, and instead keep his views in a “safe environment”.

Anti-Christian abuse

Pastor Williamson said: “My family and I, and our church community, have been very concerned by the level of anti-Christian abuse and threats of violence that we have been targeted with over the past few weeks.

The Bible proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ

“The police have not formally spoken to me about any hate crime or sought a witness statement to look at the various online comments which have included threats to burn down our church.

“As Christians we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services. The Bible, however, proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ.”

‘God loves sinners’

He added: “It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God’s Word says in relation to human sin, including all forms of sexual sin. We therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin, but that God loves sinners and Jesus can forgive all our sins.

“Newquay Baptist Church is made up of sinners who have been forgiven by a wonderful Saviour; since this is the case, we would invite all people, including the LGBT community, to come to our services. Our desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus.”

Source: christian.org.uk


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: BLEACHED, BLANCHED, AND RINSED OUT

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Father Richard John Neuhaus put two Big Ideas into play in American public life. The first was that the pro-life movement (of which Neuhaus was an intellectual leader) was the natural heir to the moral convictions that had animated the classic civil rights movement (in which Neuhaus was also deeply involved). The second was that the First Amendment to the Constitution did not contain two “religions clauses” but one religion clause, in which “no establishment” (i.e., no official, state-sanctioned Church) was intended to serve the “free exercise” of religion. Neither of those Big Ideas is welcome in today’s Democratic Party, in which Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor) was once a congressional candidate, and of which he remained a registered member until his death in January 2009.Those who point out that the 2020 Democratic platform has the most radical pro-abortion plank in American history, and that the same platform promises to hollow out religious freedom in service to lifestyle libertinism, risk being labeled “culture warriors.” Well, so be it. “Culture warrior” is snark masquerading as thought. Facts are facts. And one of the sad facts of this unhappy political moment is that Neuhaus’s effort to rescue the Democratic Party through two Big Ideas was frustrated because those two ideas got linked—and then rejected, thanks to the corruption of rights-talk that preceded, made possible, and was then accelerated by Roe v. Wade and its abortion license.While Neuhaus’s interpretation of the First Amendment on religion has gained some traction in the federal courts (including, it seems, the Supreme Court), it hasn’t dislodged the alternative view in much of the academic legal establishment or the media. That alternative was baldly stated by Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe in his constitutional law textbook. In the First Amendment, Tribe wrote, there is a “zone which the free exercise clause carves out of the establishment clause for permissible accommodation of religious interests. This carved-out area might be characterized as the zone of permissible accommodation.”

Ironically, Tribe agrees with Neuhaus on one point: There is one “religion clause” (even though the professor uses the conventional rhetoric of two such clauses). But in Tribe’s view, which has now been replicated in the 2020 Democratic Party platform, there is really just one “religion clause”—that which prohibits the state’s “establishment” of religion. Being tolerant to some degree, good liberals like Professor Tribe will try to find some wiggle room to “accommodate” religious “interests”—much like the liberally tolerant would “accommodate” the “interests” of Flat Earthers. But only up to a point.

That point was drawn close to the bone by the 2020 Democratic Party platform, which rejects what it called “broad religious exemptions” that “allow businesses, medical practices, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.” What that means in plain English is that, under a Democratic administration allied to Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Little Sisters of the Poor will be compelled to provide contraceptives, some of which are abortifacients, to their employees. That, and nothing other than that, is what the Democratic platform promises. That is also the policy the Democratic candidate for president has said he would support. Does anyone doubt that his running mate (who seems to think the Knights of Columbus are a hate group because they espouse the understanding of marriage espoused by Barack Obama in 2008) disagrees?

This is Tribe’s First Amendment theory, turbocharged: The “religious interests” of the Little Sisters of the Poor (and evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Mormons, and all others who have religiously-informed, conscience-based objections to contraception, abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and the full LGBTQ agenda) do not fit within that “zone of permissible accommodation” that “the free exercise clause carves out of the establishment clause.” So those parties are out of luck—and out of legal protection, unless the Supreme Court comes to their rescue.

In this context, appeals to personal piety, rosary-carrying, and so forth ring hollow, however sincerely felt that piety may be.

It is fatuous to dismiss concerns over the rinsing-out of religious freedom as the overwrought fretting of culture warriors. The commitments in the Democratic platform are plain, and there can be no reasonable doubt that those commitments will be given legislative and regulatory effect by a Democratic administration in league with a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratically-controlled Senate. Those are the facts. They are not the only facts to weigh. But those facts should certainly bear on conscientious Catholic voting for all federal offices in 2020.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

Source: firstthings.com


Sex-selective abortions in India could lead to the abortion of 5 million girls over the next decade

The lives of almost 5 million baby girls in India will be lost over the next decade  due to the prevalent use of sex-selective abortions, according to new research.

Academics at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia estimate the average annual number of “missing female births” will be 469,000 from 2017 to 2025 and 519,000 from 2026 to 2030, resulting in around 6.8 million lives lost.

Over the next decade, between 2020 and 2030, this would mean the lives of 4,890,000 baby girls would be lost to abortion – an average of more than 1,338 every day.

Anuradha Saxena, a member of the women’s empowerment division for Sikar district, in Rajasthan, told the Guardian that the figures came as no surprise to her.

“It will take time to remove deep-rooted custom and belief. Progress is slow and incremental but we are working on making girls valued and cherished instead of being seen as a liability who needs a huge dowry to be married off,” she said.

Fengqing Chao and her team modelled the sex ratio at birth across 98% of India’s population, along with fertility rates and national survey data on people’s preferences to have a son or daughter.

The model predicted that there would be 6.8 million “missing female births” across India between 2017 and 2030. The prediction started with 2017 as this is the year after the most recent birth data was published.

India’s missing female births over the next 10 years could have a significant impact on the global sex ratio, since the UN predicts that India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous country in that time period.

‘No girl born in three months’

Despite outlawing sex-selective abortion and pre-natal sex detection in 1994, sex-selective abortion and infanticide remain common practice due to the cultural preference for male children.

A recent report from India’s Government also found an estimated 63 million women were “missing” from the country’s population.

Census data from 2011 showed there were 919 girls to every 1,000 boys for children up to the age of six. In some northern states that ratio was as low as 830, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The World Health Organization says the natural sex ratio at birth is about 105 boys to every 100 girls.

Last year, it was revealed out of 216 births across dozens of villages in northern India, over a 3 month period, not a single girl was born.

Social worker Kalpana Thakur said at the time that the authorities were not doing enough.

“No girl child was born for three months in these villages. It cannot be just a coincidence. This clearly indicates female foeticide is taking place in the district. The government and the administration are not doing anything.”

Sex-selective abortion: A worldwide problem

Sex-selective abortion is a well-documented problem in countries around the world, resulting in highly skewed sex ratios.

Since amending its abortion law in 1998, sex-selective abortions have become a major issue in Canada.

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes how “easy access to abortion and advances in prenatal sex determination have combined to make Canada a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons…”.

Similarly, evidence of sex-selective abortions has been found in the Australian territory of Victoria, which introduced abortion on request in 2008.

Following the law change in Victoria, Dr Mark Hobart was investigated by the Medical Board of Victoria for failing to refer a woman for a sex-selective abortion. Additionally, an investigation by Australian broadcaster SBS found higher numbers of boys than girls being born in some ethnic communities in Australia.

A recent study from La Trobe University, analysing more than a million births in Victoria, suggests some parents could be aborting unborn female babies in order to have a son.

In the UK, shadow Minister Naz Shah has previously called for the Government to stop the misuse of Non-invasive Prenatal Test (NiPT) after evidence emerged they were being used to abort pregnancies based on gender.

The Labour MP said: “The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions.”

However, Ms Shah is presumably okay with disability-selective abortions as she also said: “NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions and Down’s syndrome.”

Polling, conducted by Savanta ComRes, showed 89% of the general population and 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.

Source: righttolife.org.uk


Only 18 babies with Down syndrome born in Denmark in 2019

Credit: Tatiana Dyuvbanova/Shutterstock.
Credit: Tatiana Dyuvbanova/Shutterstock.

.- Only 18 children with Down syndrome were born in Denmark in 2019, the lowest number on record in the Scandinavian country, according to a new report from the Danish Central Cytogenetic Registry (DCCR).

The DCCR, whose statistics date back to 1970, is a national registry of people who have undergone prenatal or postnatal chromosomal tests, molecular genetic tests, or biochemical tests.

The 18 babies born with Down syndrome in Denmark last year represent 0.029% of total births. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 700  (0.14%) children in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, or about 6,000 babies annually.

In Denmark, “the low number is probably an expression of a random fluctuation in numbers that are already quite small. But it should be followed by an important debate on society’s approach to children with disabilities,” said Olav Bjørn Petersen, chief physician and professor of fetal medicine at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen

Denmark was the first country in the world to implement national free prenatal Down syndrome screening for all pregnant women.

With the introduction of free prenatal screening in 2004, the number of children born with Down syndrome decreased significantly, but subsequently stabilized at 23 to 35 live births per year.

In 2018, 22 babies were born with Down syndrome, but in 2019 number plummeted even further.

According to the Danish National Board of Health, “95% of pregnant women whose fetus is found to have a chromosomal abnormality opt for an abortion.”

In Iceland, “nearly 100 percent” of pregnancies that tested positive for Down syndrome were aborted, according to a 2017 CBS News report.

Denmark allows abortion on demand within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that period, abortion is only allowed if a medical council considers there to be a physical and mental risk to the health of the mother or risk of birth defects in the unborn child. Minors under 18 need parental consent to get an abortion.

Source: catholicnewsagency.com


Finnish MP interrogated by police again over Christian views on sexuality

Päivi Räsänen (c) is the subject of a criminal investigation over her views on sexuality(Photo: ADF International)

A Christian MP has been interrogated by the police for the third time over her traditional views on family and marriage.

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s former Minister of the Interior, faced questioning again on 25 August over comments she made on a Finnish radio talk show last year.

During her appearance on the YiePuhe programme, Räsänen shared a conservative perspective on sexuality.

The interrogations have been conducted by the police as part of a pre-trial investigation ordered by the Finnish Prosecutor General into Räsänen’s comments.

She stands accused of “ethnic agitation”, which is punishable by up to two years in prison. 

In a Facebook post, she defended her right to publicly express her Christian beliefs and said she would not be intimidated into silence.

“I will not back down from my views,” she said.

“These police investigations have to do with whether it is legal to publicly confess and teach Bible-based views on man’s relationship with God.

“I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.

“I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored. I will not back down from my views.I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith.”

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s legal defence, said hate speech laws were creating a climate of censorship.

“In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship,” he said.

“This is the foundation of every free and democratic society. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies.

“These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe.”

Source: christiantoday.com


Six hundred attacks on religious buildings and places of worship in Northern Ireland in last five years

According to police figures, 601 incidents of criminal damage to religious buildings, churchyards or cemeteries have occurred since 2014/15.

The number of attacks during each year has remained fairly consistent, though it has been ever so slightly decreasing year on year.

There were 136 instances in 2014/15; 128 in 2015/16; 118 in 2016/17; 115 in 2017/18 and 104 in 2018/19.

The majority of these attacks took place in Belfast (173), followed by Lisburn and Castlereagh (60), Newry, Mourne and Down (58) and Ards and North Down (57).

The figures were uncovered by Christian Action Research & Education (Care NI) following a Freedom of Information request, according to Belfast Live.

Details of the attacks range between anything from window vandalism, to paint bombing and incidents of arson.

Synagogues and Islamic centres have also been subject to attacks, most notably in the Northern Irish capital.

Care NI policy officer Mark Baillie said churches are being attacked with “alarming regularity”, adding that it makes sense to consider introducing a security fund.

“More than 600 attacks in the last five years is a reminder that places of worship, which should be safe spaces for worshippers and congregants, are all too often targeted by vandalism and violence,” he said.

“The gradual easing of lockdown will surely only increase the opportunity and risk of further attacks and therefore it’s important MLAs take action.”

The door of a Roman Catholic Church suffers scorch damage from petrol bombs and paint during a sectarian attack in Northern Ireland

Care NI has called on the Stormont Executive to consider policies to ensure that places of worship are properly protected.

It has previously called for a Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding Scheme to be set up, mirroring a similar scheme available in England and Wales.

Recently, Scotland has adopted a similar scheme following a number of attacks in 2019, leaving Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK without any such set up.

“Last year, following Care NI’s previous research into this issue, we wrote to the party leaders asking for a manifesto commitment to create a security fund,” Baillie continued.

“We had positive engagement with a number of political parties and we are today calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to take this up.

“The scheme in England and Wales is a practical step we could introduce here to equip places of worship to invest in adequate security to prevent criminal damage.

“In a free and democratic society, no-one should be afraid of gathering together with those who share their faith in a place of worship.”

Source: irishpost.com


The Christians of Iraq ‘may again face martyrdom’

KHALIS AYSHOA is a former Member of the Iraqi Parliament (2010-2014), where he served as head of the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council. A Syriac Catholic and native of Qaraqosh,  on the Nineveh Plains, he is former chief engineer at the Ministry of Construction and Housing. He spoke with Aid to the Church in Need about the situation of Christians in northern Iraq:

“Iraqi Christians have been subjected to various types of marginalization, persecution, displacement and killing throughout history. Most recently that was the case when ISIS occupied northern Iraq and committed genocide, beginning in 2014. That was the conclusion of research by the Shlomo Organization for Documentation, which I headed, and which documented crimes against the Christian minority. The report was published June 1, 2017.

Khalis Ayshoa
Khalis Ayshoa

“The Nineveh Plain is a region of diverse religions and nationalities. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the rise of radical Islam and the growth of Iran-backed Shiite militias, non-Muslim minorities found themselves in a weak position. Extremist Islam began to focus on these minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, and began a process of marginalization, calling them infidels. Greed for these minorities’ historical lands triggered the process of demographic change, killing, kidnapping and threats.

“Terrorist militias killed more than 1,200 Christians between 2003 and 2014, in addition to targeting more than 147 churches in Iraq. Some of the countries neighboring Iraq support such terrorist acts; then there is the ongoing presence of Iran-backed militias that pose a danger to the future of the minorities, and Christian militias cannot turn the tide.

“The international community, the World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and everyone interested in continued presence of Christians in Iraq must move quickly to ensure that the requirements for their existence and safety are met. Otherwise, a dangerous situation will persist, and Christians may again face martyrdom.

“The most important actions that will encourage Christians to stay here are as follows:
1- Rebuilding the region and providing basic services through the contributions of the international community in coordination with the Iraqi government.

2- Stopping the policy of demographic change in Christian areas, with Muslims pushing out Christians.

3- Changing laws and regulations in force in Iraq that negatively affect the religious freedom and dignity of the Christian people.

4- Pressuring the Iraqi government to reconsider school curricula in Iraq to acknowledge and define the existence of the Iraqi pluriform national religious culture, history and identity.

5- Supporting the creation of small and medium-size enterprises for the purpose of employing inhabitants of the Nineveh Plains.

“Success on these fronts depends on the extent of external cooperation with Iraq and the pressure on the government here, but I hope it will happen. Among world leaders, I have most confidence in President Trump. The US Administration is the one who serves the interests of the Iraqi people because it is a decision-maker. We have tried with the Europeans before; they are sympathetic, but not decisive.

—Ragheb Elias Shaba

Source: churchinneed.org


The ‘slippery slope’ is real, says Dutch euthanasia doctor

‘Every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back.’

“Anti-euthanasia lobbyists want the public to believe in the inevitability of the slippery slope, but their fears are unwarranted, wrote a Canadian doctor earlier this year.

Where better to test this than the Netherlands?

In 2019, according to the official figures, there were 6,361 cases of euthanasia – 4.2 percent of all deaths. In other words, one out of 25 people are killed by doctors in the Netherlands. And those are just the official figures. It is widely accepted that a good number of euthanasia deaths are not reported, mostly because doctors don’t like the extra paperwork involved.

How do Dutch euthanasia doctors feel about this?

Pretty good, actually.

Writing in the NTGV, the Dutch Medical Association Journal, Dr Bert Keizer reflects on the history of Dutch euthanasia. Somewhat surprisingly, he endorses the notion that euthanasia is a “slippery slope”. Better said, he embraces it.

Dr Keizer is a Grand Old Man of Dutch euthanasia. A philosopher and a geriatrician, he now works for Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, the new name for Levenseindekliniek(the End of Life Clinic). It was born as a project of the NVVE, the Dutch Right to Die Society. He writes:

“After the turn of the [last] century, what our British colleagues had predicted years earlier with unconcealed complacency happened: those who embark on euthanasia venture down a slippery slope along which you irrevocably slide down to the random killing of defenceless sick people.”

This does not upset him too much. In his eyes, expanding the criteria for euthanasia eligibility is the path of progress. After all, it happened with abortion, too.

“With every limit we set ourselves, there is the possibility to cross it. This also applies in the peripheral areas of ethical conduct. Abortion was once not allowed, then hardly, then until 12 weeks and now even up to 20 weeks. That ‘even’ says it all. Something similar is now underway in the field of human embryo research, where we are starting to leave the ‘never’ stage.”

He describes the progress of euthanasia in the Netherlands.

“And so it was with euthanasia. Every time a line was drawn, it was also pushed back. We started with the terminally ill, but also among the chronically ill it turned out to be hopeless and unbearable suffering. Subsequently, people with incipient dementia, psychiatric patients, people with advanced dementia, (high) elderly who struggled with an accumulation of old-age complaints and finally (high) elderly who, although not suffering from a disabling or limiting disease, still find that their life no longer has content. The unfortunate term ‘completed life’ was used for the problem of the latter group.”

What Dr Keizer has witnessed in his long career is the gradual but inevitable change in what doctors are willing to do for their patients. Perhaps “slippery slope” sounds too harsh, because it evokes the image of a headlong tumble down a cliff. He prefers to think of it as a gradual erosion of boundaries.

“In retrospect, it is true that we now provide euthanasia to people to whom we had said, a little indignantly, 20 years ago, ‘Come on, that is really impossible’. And looking ahead, there is no reason to believe that this process will stop in case of incapacitated dementia. What about the prisoner who has a life sentence and desperately longs for death? Or doubly disabled children who, although institutionalized, suffer unbearably and hopelessly according to their parents as a result of self-harm? I don’t believe we are on a slippery slope, in the sense of heading for disaster. Rather, it is a shift that is not catastrophic, but it does require that we continue to get involved as a community.”

This passage from Dr Keizer’s article suggests that the two sides of the euthanasia debate have zeroed in on the wrong word. Instead of arguing about whether a slippery slope exists – because they agree on that — they should focus on the meaning of “disaster”.

Obviously, if one takes the nihilistic view that death is a good thing, the more euthanasia, the better.

Michael Cook Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet

Babies on demand: the nasty side of surrogacy

One agency shows a smiling blonde wearing a T-shirt captioned ‘I grow cute babies’

August 7, 2020


Could possession of the Bible become an offence in Scotland?

The new Hate Crime Bill will make criminals of us all

” alt=”Could possession of the Bible become an offence in Scotland?” /> iStock

For the Scottish National party, the phrase ‘nanny state’ is not so much a criticism as an aspiration. This is the party that wanted to assign a state guardian to every child born in Scotland through its ‘named person’ scheme, only to be thwarted by the Supreme Court. Under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, there have been repeated attempts to regulate the eating and drinking habits of people, including proposed bans on two-for-one pizza deals and minimum pricing on cheaper alcoholic drinks.

It makes sense, then, that the party’s paternalism should extend to the question of free speech. Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill was ostensibly proposed to repeal outdated proscriptions against blasphemy, but will instead usher in a range of new blasphemy laws by stealth. Most controversially, part two of the Bill pertains to the offence of ‘stirring up hatred’, which criminalises anyone who ‘behaves in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner’ or ‘communicates threatening, abusive or insulting material to another person’.

Moreover, the Bill explicitly allows for intention to be put aside. If behaviour or material is ‘likely’ to stir up hatred against any protected groups (defined by age, disability, racial or ethnic identity, sexual orientation, transgender identity or ‘variations in sex characteristics’) then whether or not the perpetrator intended to do so is immaterial. Even an actor playing a bigoted character could be prosecuted under the proposed laws. An entire section of the Bill is devoted to the ‘public performance of a play’, which specifies that actors and directors can be found culpable if members of protected groups find the material offensive. So if you are troubled by the anti-Semitism of Shylock’s detractors, or the Islamophobia of Tamburlaine’s decision to burn the Quran, you can complain to the Scottish police. Next year’s Edinburgh Festival should be interesting.

The implications for stand-up comedy are similarly dire. As practitioners of an art form that often teases the limits of public tolerance, comedians frequently find themselves involved in free speech battles. The dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop QC, has already warned that stand-up would not be exempt from the SNP’s Bill, and that even an old-fashioned ‘Scotsman, Irishman and Englishman’ joke may be perceived as discriminatory. Certainly, some of the more subversive acts that regularly appear at Comedy Unleashed, a night I co-founded in London, would be at risk of prosecution should they venture north of the border.

The Bill even goes as far as to criminalise the possession of ‘inflammatory’ material, which is why senior Catholic bishops have raised concerns that possession of the Bible could become a criminal offence. Let’s not forget that Leviticus 20:13 calls for the execution of gay men.

In a statement that out-Donald-Trumps Donald Trump, the SNP’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has asserted that the Bill ‘does not undermine free speech’, but rather ‘protects it’. Given that this Bill could see those found guilty of ‘insulting’ behaviour imprisoned for seven years, Yousaf’s claim is at once hilarious and disturbing.

‘The Bill does not seek to stifle criticism or rigorous debate in any way,’ writes Yousaf. ‘People will still be able to express controversial, challenging or even offensive views as long as this is not done in a threatening or abusive way that is intended to stir up hatred or likely to stir up hatred.’ None of which addresses the problem of how such vague legislation is apt to be interpreted. In accordance with all official law enforcement guidance in the UK, the website for Police Scotland defines an incident or crime as ‘hateful’ based on the perception of the ‘victim’ (Newspeak for ‘complainant’). If hatred is a matter of perception and not intent, and even the context of dramatic representation is considered irrelevant, how can we possibly safeguard against the abuse of state power?

We must always be vigilant against the introduction of legislation when couched in such vague terms. Yousaf’s stated conviction that ‘free speech itself is never an unfettered right’ strongly suggests that the Bill’s ambiguity is no accident. Even the Scottish Police Federation has warned that its effects would be tantamount to the ‘policing of what people think or feel’, and the Law Society of Scotland had called it a ‘significant threat to freedom of expressions’. That the SNP seem determined to ignore these objections may not be particularly surprising, but it should be a matter of uttermost concern for those of us who still believe in the preservation of liberal values.