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J.K. Rowling Calls Bluff in Scotland and Wins — for Now


Make no mistake, the hate speech law in Scotland isn’t protecting against pure hatred, but against pure hatred for the truth. Which is why we, as Christians, must risk offense by speaking the truth, though always with love and grace.

The proud and deliberately defiant J.K. Rowling has gone viral this week by speaking out in protest of the new Scottish Hate Crime and Public Order Act that was signed into law in 2021 but went into effect this past Monday, April 1.

The billionaire author and creator of the wildly successful Harry Potter series has been outspoken on transgenderism for some time and wasted no opportunity in mocking Scotland’s new hate crime law. She wrote that “Scottish lawmakers seem to have placed higher value on the feelings of men performing their idea of femaleness” rather “than on the rights and freedoms of actual women and girls.”

She goes on to say in protest, “The redefinition of ‘woman’ to include every man who declares himself one has already had serious consequences for women’s and girl’s rights and safety in Scotland, with the strongest impact felt, by the most vulnerable, including female prisoners and rape survivors.”

Despite being advised to take down any posts that run afoul of the law, Rowling has refused.

In Rowling’s words, “Freedom of Speech and Belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal.” She closes by saying, “if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offense under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested…”

So far, no arrests have been made, but what does the actual new hate crime law do?

First, the bill brings together all previous hate crimes legislation into one statute. That’s important to understand because, to provide context, hate crimes and speech codes have existed in Scotland since 1986.

Second, it modernizes the legal definitions of hate crimes to add transgender identity and its variations in sex characteristics (very broad categories) to the prior protected categories of age, race, religion, and sexual orientation. In other words, new sexual identity categories are far outpacing legislation, and this act creates room for that.

Third, it creates and elevates new categories of offenses related to hate crimes, such as stirring up hatred, prejudice, and malice towards a member of these various identified groups.

Fourth, in a touch of irony, it gets rid of blasphemy laws completely.

Imagine a hate crimes law that is careful to mention that you are now free to commit blasphemy. In Scotland, you cannot offend certain people, but you are now free to offend God.

The act also attempts to strike some sort of balance with feminist activist groups, who have been protesting the advance of the trans movement for some time, by — wait for it — establishing a working group to consider how the law deals with misogyny, harassment, and the mistreatment of women and girls. No doubt, legislators believe that nothing could be more beneficial than a government working group, but that’s probably not what feminists had in mind when confronting the real dangers and victims of transgenderism.

While Rowling spared no truth or insult on Monday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that no one should be criminalized for stating “simple facts on biology,” according to the BBC. The new Scottish law carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

But First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf said, “Unless your behavior is threatening or abusive and intends to stir up hatred, then you have nothing to worry about…”

Those words are hardly comforting.

So far, no arrests have been made, and the Scottish government has no intention of holding Rowling accountable for her social media comments; she is, after all, the most famous living person in Scotland today. But they could certainly target other Scots, and Rowling’s reaction to that possibility was to promise, “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man, I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.”

So, how should Christians respond? Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Jesus also said, “In the world you will have trouble, but fear not, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

There is no loving way to embrace a lie and there is no loving way to bind the truth. Make no mistake, the new hate speech laws Scotland isn’t protecting against pure hatred, but against pure hatred for the truth.

Every time we speak the truth as Christians, we risk making an offense, even as we do so with love and grace. Jesus taught us that.

With the passing of this new law, freedom of speech may very well be dead in Scotland. But for now, Rowling has called bluff, and the Scottish government has folded.

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