These days more than ever we hear people talking about hate. The media in particular obsesses over so-called “hate crimes.” The logic behind this fear is that incidents motivated by hatred over religion, gender, class, or any other distinction are somehow worse than crimes committed over money, love, or any other number of factors.
And, of course, we know that too many elements of our society brand mere differences of opinion as hate. Advocates of traditional marriage often receive the brand of “hater” because they believe in a particular definition of wedlock, even though these people may have never expressed outright hatred toward anyone. That’s just one example, but accusations of hate regarding differences in political or cultural philosophy happen far too often lately.
We’re seeing this phenomenon rear its ugly head in the UK in particular. Last month, the police in South Yorkshire began a campaign to ask citizens to report acts of hate where a crime had never actually taken place:
In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing. Hate will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire. Report it and put a stop to it #HateHurtsSY pic.twitter.com/p2xf6OLoQZ
— South Yorkshire Police (@syptweet) September 9, 2018
That’s right, the police want folks in South Yorkshire to tattle on their neighbors if they express an opinion or make a remark that someone could constitute as “hate.” You can’t get much more Orwellian than that.
The Scottish government’s “One Scotland” initiative is going after hate crimes as well with a new campaign of posters and videos that announce to “bigots,” “racists,” “homophobes,” “transphobes,” and “disablists” that Scotland has “had enough” of hate crimes.
Here’s how the campaign defines hate crime:
Hate crime can be verbal or physical and has hugely damaging effects on the victims, their families and communities, and we all must play our part to challenge it.
Hate crime comes in many forms and examples, including:
Race (e.g. threatened because of where they are from or the colour of their skin)
Religion (e.g. have abuse shouted at them because of their beliefs or religious dress)
Sexual orientation (e.g. tormented because they’re holding hands with another person of the same gender)
Transgender identity (e.g. humiliated, intimidated or threatened online for being transgender)
Disability (e.g. attacked because they are disabled)
The goal of omitting hate crimes from Scotland is all well and good, particularly when police in Scotland say they saw over 110 hate crime incidents each week (according to the One Scotland website) last year alone. Because no matter how firm anyone is in his or her beliefs, no one should commit physical violence or verbal abuse against another person for any reason.
The trouble with the One Scotland campaign is that it takes a remarkably smug tone, especially when it comes to the generic category of “bigots.” The posters, aimed at religious intolerance, read, “Dear Bigots, you can’t spread your religious hate here. End of sermon. Yours, Scotland.” It doesn’t take too much sensitivity to wince at the curtness of that statement.
Over at the wonderful British resource Christian Concern, Tim Dieppe points out the problem with going after “bigots” in such a way:
This poster assumes that all bigots are religious. This is highly offensive and disturbing. Imagine if the poster had said: “Dear Bigots, you can’t spread your Jewish hate here.” People would rightly accuse them of antisemitism. What about: “Dear Bigots, you can’t spread your atheistic hate here.” Again, this unreasonably singles out atheists for criticism. Could you imagine the Scottish government putting up a poster saying: “Dear Bigots, you can’t spread your Islamic hate here.”? I hope not, and neither should they. How come assuming that all bigots are religious is acceptable when assuming all bigots are atheists, or Jewish, or Muslim, would not be acceptable?
The implication is that all religious people are bigots. This is insulting, but it is hard to believe that the insult is not intentional in this case.
He then goes on to discuss the fact that, since the other signage in the series addresses attitudes toward specific behaviors but the “bigot” portion of the campaign is vague, adherents to any faith can face accusations of hate for expressing their opinions about any behavior they find immoral. Dieppe even concludes that someone in Scotland could report Jesus Himself for a hate crime if He were in the country today.
Dieppe notices the smugness of the campaign as well when he writes:
The poster closes with “End of sermon.” The reference to a sermon clearly shows that Christians are the target of this poster. It is actually state anti-Christian propaganda, portraying Christians as hateful bigots.
This is where we have got to. The state propagating anti-Christian propaganda. Where next?
David Robertson, a pastor who blogs, tweets, and podcasts as The Wee Flea, reported One Scotland to the police for a hate crime because of the way the campaign paints religious people — particularly Christians — as bigots:
You state that “A hate incident is any incident that is not a criminal offence, but something which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hate or prejudice.” By your own criteria your posters, especially the one on religion is a hate incident. I perceive it as being motivated by hate and prejudice.
Why? In my day-to-day life I experience a great deal of anti-Christian prejudice, fuelled by ignorance and prejudice. Your poster will just add to that.
Robertson may well be engaging in a publicity stunt by reporting the campaign to the police and encouraging others to do the same, but he makes his point loud and clear.
Hatred goes both ways, and if people of faith are supposed to accept everyone and make no generalizations, believers should expect the same treatment — particularly from the government. Scotland is egregiously out of line with this campaign. End of sermon.