Scotland to launch new hate speech law on April Fool’s Day that will jail people for up to 7 years

Scotland’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Act will be activated on April 1, also known as April Fool’s Day, and people ranging from Catholic clergy to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling have condemned it for restricting basic freedoms.

The text of the bill, originally introduced years before, warns against acts that “stir up hatred against a group of persons” of certain protected characteristics, including age, disability, religion or, in the case of a social or cultural group, perceived religious affiliation, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and variations in sex characteristics.

The government’s official explanatory notes warn that one can be prosecuted for “stirring up hatred” by voicing or sharing offensive rhetoric across a variety of media, including, “Displaying, publishing or distributing the material e.g. on a sign; on the internet through websites, blogs, podcasts, social media etc., either directly, or by forwarding or repeating material that originates from a third party; through printed media such as magazine publications or leaflets, etc. Giving, sending, showing or playing the material to another person e.g. through online streaming, by email, playing a video, through public performance of a play, etc.”

Those convicted of “stirring up hatred” in such ways could be fined and face a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf is credited for having shepherded the bill through parliament. ((Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images))

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The government notes go on to add that this can also include, “Making the material available to another person in any way e.g. through the spoken word, the written word, electronic communications, etc. either directly (as the originator of the material), or by forwarding or repeating the material.”

Rowling declared in a social media post about the law Sunday, “If you genuinely imagine I’d delete posts calling a man a man, so as not to be prosecuted under this ludicrous law, stand by for the mother of all April Fools’ jokes.”

Tony Lenehan, the president of the Faculty of Advocates’ Criminal Bar Association warned on the BBC, “Where the new statute is woven with threads of subjectivity, the broadcasters, after-dinner speakers, comedians, debaters and dramatists must trust to luck that they don’t end up being prosecuted under it.”

While Scotland’s national police denied it will proactively “target actors, comedians, or any other people or groups,” they will nonetheless respond to complaints once they have been made, urging people who have witnessed or been targeted by hateful incidents to contact them.

Then-newly elected Scottish National Party leader Humza Yousaf speaks after being announced new SNP leader, at Murrayfield Stadium, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Monday, March 27, 2023. (Andrew Milligan/PA via AP)

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The Scottish parliament’s website says that while “There are already laws in place to protect certain groups from hate crime,” this legislation “updates these existing laws and pulls most of these laws into one Bill. It also adds to the groups currently specifically protected by hate crime laws.”

In what some may find to be ironic, the bill also noted that it abolished “blasphemy” as a prosecutable offense.

The National Catholic Register recalled how In 2020, while the bill was still making progress through parliament, Catholic bishops of Scotland argued it could lead to the censorship of religious social teaching and designate texts such as the Bible as “inflammatory material.” The bishops also noted that their religion’s teachings on sex and gender “might be perceived by others as an abuse of their own, personal worldview and likely to stir up hatred.”

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Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf is credited for having shepherded this hate crime bill through the Scottish Parliament.

At the time, the then-Justice Secretary touted that this bill “sent a strong and clear message to victims, perpetrators, communities and to wider society that offences motivated by prejudice will be treated seriously and will not be tolerated.”

Alexander Hall is an associate editor for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected].

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