EDINBURGH, Scotland, September 27, 2005, ( – Scotland is reported to be on the verge of enacting legislation that will add homosexual persons to the list of groups covered under that nation’s hate crimes law. Racial minorities and religion are already covered in the act.

The new Scottish Sentencing Bill, unveiled by First Minister Jack McConnell at the beginning of September recommended that the new aggravated offence should be used to stop homophobic attacks. While the Bill does not add any offences to the list of crimes it does allow for any crime committed against a homosexual to be deemed motivated by hate and thus subject to longer sentences.

Several groups have criticized the proposed legislation. Since motivation has to be proved over and above the actual crime some lawyers warn that convictions will be harder to obtain.

Religious authorities also worry about the loss of “freedom of speech”. John Deighan, parliamentary officer for the Catholic Church in Scotland, was quoted in the Scotsman as saying: “The trouble with this is where is it going to end up? The working group did say that they didn’t want to impinge on the right of free speech, but there is always a worry that this is where it will lead.

“There has been intimidation of religious groups, who felt they had to keep quiet as a result. You get self-censorship developing. People are afraid to say what they believe in on homosexuality because they feel that they will be accused of homophobia.”

  Events in Canada indicate that the Catholic Church in Scotland’s concerns are not without merit. Calgary’s Bishop Fred Henry was threatened with litigation during his defense of traditional marriage during the debates on the marriage re-definition bill.

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