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JK Rowling and I could be locked up by Scotland’s anti-free-speech mob

Comedy. Culture. Art. Literature. The great Scottish enlightenment. A historic role in the Reformation of the Church.  

All attributes listed on tourist brochures of Scotland. But as from this week, Scotland’s new law will crack down on the free speech that enabled all of this to flourish in the land in which William Wallace fought for ‘freedom.’  

On April 1, our ‘hate speech’ ban came into force, creating a new offense of ‘stirring up hatred’ against protected categories – including based on transgender identity and sexual orientation.   

Nobody likes to be hated. Very few people want to make others around them feel that way. But the law is vague, far-reaching and lacks clear parameters around what the state decides could be ‘hateful’ language. Could it be illegal to state facts about the biological reality of women? Could it be a crime to defend marriage between a man and a woman? Depending on the context, nobody knows.   

First to catch headlines for her vulnerability to the law is Scotland’s most celebrated and influential author. As if with the flick of a wand – or the tap of a tweet – J.K. Rowling has gone from beloved icon to villainous witch in the eyes of the establishment.  

For many years, her tweets upholding women’s rights to single-sex spaces – be it in prison cells, changing rooms or rape crisis centers – have caused a stir among the public. A vengeful social media mob crying ‘witch’ against her heresy against modern social orthodoxies.  

The new law grants legal teeth to those online pitchforks.   

It’s unclear whether Rowling has said enough to warrant arrest. Certainly, many have claimed to have felt ‘hated’ because of Rowling’s words – thus meeting the threshold for police investigation. Her steadfast grip of the truth has not allowed for cowardice. Just hours after the law came into force, she invited Police Scotland to come and arrest her for her beliefs if that’s what they wanted to do.  

Under the world’s spotlight, the Scottish establishment, following a brief investigation, quickly concluded that Rowling would not be arrested this time. The decision heralds at least some measure of Freedom of Tweet under the new regime. But while all eyes are on the latest victory of the feminist superstar, we mustn’t forget the others, in less prominent positions, who may also be vulnerable to the censorial reach of the hate crime law.  

Christians and other faith communities, for example, have long held beliefs about marriage being between one man and one woman. The same groups hold that no child has ever been born in the wrong body, and that they should be supported and empowered to become comfortable in their own skin.  

If such views were deemed ‘hateful,’ but were to be discussed around a family dinner table, trouble could ensue. The law doesn’t protect discussions held within the home, and children encouraged to report what they have been told is ‘hateful’ could get their parents into trouble.  

It’s not only the religious who might fear; but the irreligious too. Scotland has long been known for hard-edged comedy, with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival attracting comedians around the world to come and cut their teeth at the prestigious event every year.  

Comedy, by its very nature, pushes the envelope of the acceptable. Comedians are, after all, descendants of the court jester – the only man allowed to use his art to speak truth to an all-powerful king. Comedy requires the freedom to speak the unspeakable. The audience will soon decide the parameters of acceptability for themselves.  

It’s easy to see where this is all headed. Around the world, we’ve seen the consequences of ‘hate speech’ laws unfold upon those who express minority beliefs. In Finland, a parliamentarian and grandmother underwent criminal trial for a Bible verse tweet that questioned her Church’s sponsorship of a pride event. Her case now sits at the Supreme Court.  

In Mexico, two politicians from differing parties have both been convicted of ‘gender based political violence’ and placed on an offenders’ register, simply for upholding their beliefs about gender and pronouns on Elon Musk’s platform X. There’s nothing to stop our hate-crime law from doing the same thing.   

Under the world’s spotlight, the Scottish establishment, following a brief investigation, quickly concluded that Rowling would not be arrested this time. The decision heralds at least some measure of Freedom of Tweet under the new regime. But while all eyes are on the latest victory of the feminist superstar, we mustn’t forget the others, in less prominent positions, who may also be vulnerable to the censorial reach of the hate crime law.  

From William Wallace to John Knox, to J. K. Rowling – the Scottish narrative has always been defined and shaped by those who challenge the dominant orthodoxies of the day. We’ve known this a long while. In 1697, the last man in Scotland was condemned to death for ‘blasphemy.’ Thomas Aitkenhead, a 20-year-old student, was hanged for expressing disbelief in the miracles of the gospels. Blasphemy laws were a blight on civilized society. Nobody should ever have been punished for expressing a different view to the church.  

Yet on April 1, we introduced a new blasphemy law – one that punishes heretics against the new dominant religion of our day. The penalties are severe – up to seven years in prison. The uncertainty of which speech counts as ‘criminal’ will deter civilians from even questioning the mantras and dogmas of modern society. For those without the international support that Rowling yields, it’s a very concerning time indeed. The rest of the world must learn from our folly. Free speech is a value hard-fought, and easily lost. 

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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