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Would Jesus be Prosecuted for Hate Speech? CT

This weeks column on Christian Today was ‘inspired’ by John Mason’s speech to the Scottish Parliament in support of the Scottish Government Hate Crime Bill (the new Blasphemy bill).  John is a good man and a fine Christian, but on this one he is being dangerously naive. We had a wee discussion on his FB page where he refused to answer the blasphemy question – that no one in the Scottish Government has dared to answer.  “If an Edinburgh bookseller were to advertise ‘The Koran and other obscene works not sold here’ would he be prosecuted under this new law”.  John refused to answer – I suspect because he is smart enough to know that the answer is yes.  Why is that important?  Because the last time the Blasphemy Act was used in Scotland was 178 years ago when an Edinburgh bookseller was charged for advertising ‘the Bible and other obscene works not sold here”.   John – and Humza Yousaf and the Scottish government know that whereas the old blasphemy law was not used – this new one will be.   I was so disappointed that a Christian MSP would be so naive as to argue that we should all be against hate and therefore we should support this bill.The irony is – as the article points out below – John was mocked and abused by Patrick Harvie and his allies for suggesting that it was a mark of democracy to be able to disagree about sex and sexuality.  The Hate Crimes bill seeks to prevent that – and John voted for it!  It’s a classic example of turkeys voting for Christmas. Anyway have a read for yourselves and see what you think – to be fair to John – here is the link to his reasoning…. 

Would Jesus be prosecuted for hate speech?


(Photo: Unsplash/Tim Wildsmith)

“You dogs! Snakes! Morons! Fools! Hypocrites! Swine!”

Can you imagine the uproar if a Christian leader were to use such terms on Twitter or Facebook? I suspect a ban would not be far away. At the very least, this could be considered ‘hate speech’ – and it hardly seems very loving. I can imagine the rebukes from fellow Christians accusing the perpetrator of not being very ‘Christlike’. The only problem is that it is Christ who used those words. And he was not done there. Take these strong words from Matthew 23.

“You blind fools!……..You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean……..You snakes, you brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23)

Our notion of moron comes from the word that Jesus used for fool – not just an ignorant person, but a wicked and immoral person.

I thought of these when I heard that the Scottish parliament this week narrowly (by 31 to 30) passed the first stage of the proposed new hate crimes Bill – which is in effect a new blasphemy law. I have written before about the incredible dangers in this Bill – dangers which have been picked up by journalists, police, lawyers and politicians.

But others are enthusiastic, not least the Scottish Justice Secretary and lobby groups like the Equality Network (note that these lobby groups are largely funded by the Scottish Government and tend to lobby the Government to do what the Government intends to do anyway).

But also, some Christians seem unaware of the problems. One Christian MSP, John Mason, spoke in the Parliament in support: “I believe we as a Parliament and as Parliamentarians have a duty to at least restrain hatred in society, even if we cannot actually force anyone to love their enemy.”

At first glance, this seems reasonable. Who is going to disagree with the idea of stopping hatred? But how can we stop hate? Hatred comes from the heart. Powerful as politicians may be, they do not have the ability to change the human heart. In fact, as anyone involved in politics knows, they do not even have the ability to change their own hearts. The political authorities are there to punish wrongdoing (Romans 13:1-7), not wrong thinking! When politicians think they can do what they are unable to do, then trouble usually ensues as their illusions are shattered.

But there is a way that hearts can be changed, and enemies reconciled. I have sat in groups where former enemies who wanted to kill one another embraced each other. IRA and UVF terrorists in Northern Ireland, Serbs and Croats, black and white in South Africa. What caused the dividing wall of partition to be taken down? The Good News and love of Jesus Christ.

Does that mean that if the Scottish Parliament wants to get rid of hatred, they should make Christianity compulsory? Not at all – forced ‘conversion’ is no conversion at all. But the Scottish Government could, if they managed to overcome their ideological bias, do a lot of good by encouraging Christian churches who seek to communicate the goods news. A good Bible-based church in a housing community would do a whole lot more than just a drugs clinic – although ideally, we would have both!

John Mason also said: “So Patrick Harvie (the Scottish Green leader) and I can continue to debate about who should or should not have sex with whom. We can discuss and criticise each other’s views, even though we strongly disagree with each other. That is a sign of a healthy society and a healthy democracy. But what we must not do is seek to have the other and their views removed from the public square.”

The problem is that this law is designed to have opposing views removed from the public square. This is not about equality before the law, but rather about removing views that prove offensive to those in power. For example, concern has been expressed that JK Rowling could be guilty of a crime for her defence of the view that men cannot become women. In an ironic twist, Mr Mason’s comments were roundly condemned and mocked by Mr Harvie’s supporters, who think that Mason’s views have no place in a modern and ‘tolerant’ society.

The trouble is that the legislation seeks to prevent views that are ‘likely to stir up hatred’. Who gets to determine what those views are? Take two stories from the news in the UK this past week. After a man in Birmingham went on a stabbing spree, the police were quick to announce that this was ‘not a hate crime’. Why? How did they know that? I tend to think that anyone who stabs several people, killing one, may have some hate in his actions! What gives the police the right to determine what is and what is not hate crime? I suspect if the man concerned had been a member of a far right group, there would have been no hesitation in (rightfully) pronouncing it a ‘hate crime’.

Then there is the disturbing story of the preacher, Josh Williamson, the Australian pastor of a church in Newquay, Cornwall. After expressing his delight on Facebook that Cornwall Pride was not to go ahead and citing 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he received a barrage of anti-Christian abuse, threats of violence and a warning that his church would be burnt down. By any standard, those threats should count as ‘hate speech. But what have the police done? Rather than deal with the abuse and threats of violence against Mr Williamson, they have warned him about expressing his views. It is an astonishing indication of just how discriminatory the police have become.

You don’t have to agree with Mr Williamson’s remarks, but he did not attempt to stop Pride, nor did he threaten violence. Yet he is the one who has been warned by the police. The most revealing aspect of this is the quote from one of the organisers of Cornwall Pride: “I respect everyone’s right to practise their religion whatever that may be, but these views are not a part of it.”

In other words, you have a right to practise your religion, but we will tell you what your religion should teach!

The new Scottish Hate Crime Bill is a replacement for the old blasphemy law. But instead of abolishing blasphemy, it will in effect introduce a new secular blasphemy law. The only difference is that this time the law will be used – just as it was 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ was crucified for blasphemy. Under this new law, Jesus Christ would be prosecuted for hate speech.  Why should Christians today expect to be treated any differently?

How should we respond? The same way Christ did.

“When they hurled their insults at him he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

We are called to be faithful, honest, patient, loving, truthful and prayerful.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

We deal with the hatred of humans by showing the love of Christ.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at

I Hate ‘Hate Speech’

Police Scotland and the Scottish Government Reported for Hate Incident


  1. We may already know for a fact that the police are selective as to what hate crimes/incidents they even bother to record. They clearly have a worldview in which the world is populated by goodies and baddies, in which they are the goodies and some of us are the baddies. There ought to be clarity and consistency in the law, but in practice, a law is only as good as the flawed humans who enforce it; in practice, there is therefore one law for the goodies and another for the baddies, with the police, the ultimate goodies, deciding who is a goodie and who is a baddie, in cahoots with politicians.

    We can know all this, because, following your example (who did much the same as I did, copying you, but more systemtically), I meticulously documented what happened when I did more-or-less the same as you, publishing all the correspondence that ensued, culminating in the following post on my blog, the title of which says it all:

    Police Scotland doesn’t record its own hate incidents
    which links to earlier episodes in the same saga.

    I doubt it occurred to many people, in the early days of the human rights movement that led to such treaties as the European Convention on Human Rights, that a day would come that loving the dogma one believed and hating any dogma that contradicted it, leading astray (and saying so) would one day become selectively criminalised by the state, using neutral-sounding legislation selectively enforced in order to repress Christianity. But that is a destination at which we have already arrived, not still one we might be heading for, unless we’re careful.

    It is tempting to warn, as though was still 1960, using witty but mealy-mouthed understatement, of a possible future threat to democratic freedoms, asserting that caution is needed lest we slip eventually into this state of intolerant dystopia that is already present. I’ve done it myself. But it is a temptation we should begin to resist unless we make a point of giving our readers and listeners clues that we are using understatement ironically. The state has already adjudicated more than once (e.g. in Forstater and Mackereth) that beliefs it dissents from, to which Christians have always traditionally adhered, but not those to which it assents, however novel and controversial, are unworthy of respect in democratic societies, removing them from the protection of human rights-based law.

    Nowadays the courts mean, by democratic societies, merely societies in which officials are elected by voters to office (as was You-Know-Who in 1930s Germany). There are some liberals left in the political class, who secretly long for the rehabilitation of secularism, the political doctrine that it was the job of churches and individuals to decide what they believed, not for kings, whose governing role was to be – er – merely secular. But let us not kid ourselves that any such old-school sympathisers will have an easy task, still less that they can be relied upon to do or to say anything that will accomplish more than their being able to say “I told you so” in their little-read memoirs. The illiberal majority is so entrenched in politics today that it’d be tantamount to mounting a coup on their part, if and when they steeled themselves, at all costs, to try to set out to restore the status quo and (God willing) to succeed in this.

  2. Thanks, David! I read through John Mason’s FB page. I admire your persistence. It seems to me that to answer your question with a ‘yes-it-may-happen’ would be seen by his fellow MSPs as a betrayal. How sad if so! It is quite clear that the bill allows that possibility.

  3. Good question!

    Perhaps we can consider what did happen and that might be an accurate prediction of what would happen. It was the religious authorities that wanted Jesus dead and they tried to use the secular to that aim. Pilate found nothing guilty in Jesus according to Roman law but fearing an uprising gave a crowd the option for a murderer or Christ to be free. A whipped up crowd chose the murderer.

    So what would happen today? There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s likely therefore that the church would reject Jesus (a prophet is without honour among hos own people) and religious authorities could use hate crime laws to have him convicted with him being found not guilty. The same religious authorities would likely falsely accuse him of other things such healing with demonic powers and to placate religious authorities, his family would claim him to be mad.

    So, mad and bad with him being sad, longing to gather people as a mother hen gathers her chicks but people not letting him.

    By his wounds we are healed!

  4. “I respect everyone’s right to practise their religion whatever that may be, but these views are not a part of it.”

    I have strong ojections to this statement as some religions involve the ritual slaughter of animals.
    Imagine if this became the norm in suburban UK?

    Imagine you live next door to neighbours who have tethered a goat in their back garden to be slaughtered – its throat slashed to bleed to death – over the weekend during some sort of barbaric religious ritual.

    Can you imagine the distress this animal suffers?
    Try to imagine you have young children who are able to see and hear this animal, and the whooping and hollering of the neighbours from their house!

    I have. First hand! So I know what I’m tallking about.

    WhileI recognise that banning any relgion is dangerous we, as a so called civilized society should be moving towards a time when belief in ancient supersticious nonsense – including sacrifice – is no longer a part of our lives.

    It is disgusting and beneath basic human dignity to believe in such things.

      1. @ David

        “So you want to ban religion – whilst at the same time saying you respect people’s right to practice what you want to ban!”

        Arkenaten isn’t my favourite commenter on my own blog and I don’t suppose he cares much for me, but, in fairness to him, he didn’t actually say that he wanted to ban all religion. He didn’t want his neighbours slaughtering goats in their back gardens any more, that’s all – unless you know different from earlier exchanges with Arkenaten that I haven’t read.

        I’m struggling myself as to whether the circumcision of baby boys ought still to be tolerated in this day and age. I don’t see why female genital mutilation is a heinous crime, if male genital mutilation is still just fine.

      2. @ John
        Thank you, John.- At least someone here is prepared to take the time to actually read comments properly.

  5. ‘“You blind fools!……..You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the inside but are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean……..You snakes, you brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23)

    Our notion of moron comes from the word that Jesus used for fool – not just an ignorant person, but a wicked and immoral person.’

    David, you might want to correct the quote from Matthew 23:27. You also seem to be mixing ‘meaning’ with history in the last sentence. I realise preachers like to do this, but what is your point here?

    1. No – I have no desire to correct the quote from Matthew 23 – because its accurate. Why would you want it to be ‘corrected’? And why the snide remark – I don’t mix meaning with history.

      1. David your quote says: ‘You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the INSIDE’ (my emphasis).
        And what did you mean then by: ‘Our NOTION of moron COMES FROM the word that Jesus used for fool’ (my emphasis). Isn’t this mixing ‘meaning’ and history?
        And did Jesus call the Pharisees ‘swine’? In other words is there language that Jesus didn’t (and wouldn’t?) use ‘against’ people?

      2. The inside is clearly a typo – there is no need for you to assume the worst. No explaining what the term fool meant in biblical times and language is not mixing meaning and history. To leave it as ‘fool’ as we use it would be to give the wrong meaning. IN the Bible it is not so much to do with intellect as with morality – some think it should be translated along the lines of immoral moron. That is where our term moron comes from – an immoral fool.

        I never said that Jesus called the Pharisees swine. I did say that he called some people ‘swine’ – ‘don’t cast your pearls before swine’ – unless you are such a literalist that you assume he was talking about animals!

  6. David, I wasn’t assuming “the worst”. But it was you yourself who insisted that you had “no desire to correct the quote from Matthew 23 – because its accurate.”

    You are still mixing etymology and meaning — by simply saying “That is where our TERM moron COMES FROM – an immoral fool” (my emphasis). The English word “moron” has nothing to do with morality. So by all means translate the text as “immoral moron”.

    Jesus did not call PEOPLE “swine”. And yes he was REFERRING to an animal. That’s how the language in this saying in Matt 7:6 “works”. Only a literalist would try to interpret each word here by itself.

  7. I suspect it won’t be long until the words of Jesus are cited as hate speech. The days when Jesus was viewed as ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ and a good moral teacher and example are over. Not that he ever was ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’, at least not in any simplistic sense of these words.

    He will soon be condemned for the words you quote David and many others.

  8. St Matthew 23 – and other Gospel passages that present Jesus as using similar language – raise difficult questions:

    These passages make Jesus sound genuinely human & Jewish – but He sounds unable to control His own tongue. St Matthew 12.30 ff. seems relevant.

    In St Matthew 5 He commands His hearers to “love [their] enemies] – but His own behaviour to the Pharisees & co. would, in the mouth of a mere man, be described by words such as “venomous”.

    In a mere man, such behaviour would be called hypocritical. Why should He not be criticised as well ? To judge His behaviour by more lenient standards than would be applied to the actions of mere men, is to commit the sin of “respect of persons”.

    Another problem: if Jesus could not love His enemies the Pharisees, whom He shows little sign of loving, then He is setting a more exacting standard of behaviour for His followers than He can live up to. At the very least, He appears unable to live by His own Teaching.

    And that opens a huge can of worms. For if (what human beings would call) venomous language from God Incarnate is “really” an expression of love, even though it would be severely criticised if mere Christians indulged in it – that suggests that God’s Love may be what humans call cruelty, and that man’s love is what God judges to be cruelty. But if man’s ethics bear no relation to God’s “ethics”, then it is meaningless to call God Good. But if divine and human standards of what counts as ethical behaviour are reasonably close, then the behaviour of Jesus can and must be judged by the same moral standards as would be applied to the behaviour of a mere human being.

    If God’s Love is compatible with (what certainly appears to be) extremely ungracious and venomous on the part of Christ, then either God’s Goodness is what Christians call evil; or, God is Unknowable.

    The Bible’s presentation of God makes sense only if man’s notions of goodness are not totally valueless as compared with God’s Goodness. The light of a firefly is a trifle compared to that of the Sun – but both are light. The lesser light, though tiny in comparison with the vastly greater light, is not darkness.

    My interim solution to these problems, is to suppose that St Matthew knew nothing of the idea of the Sinlessness of Christ, & may not have known of the doctrine of His Divinity.

    The Matthean Jesus is a king: God’s Anointed, Chosen, Davidic, Son of Man King. As King, He is a Wisdom figure and Teacher, because He exercises “all *exousia* [i.e. power & authority] in Heaven and on Earth”. But He seems not to be sinless, and to be extra-ordinary, but perhaps not Divine.

    1. James – that is a quite confused post. Of course Matthew knew of the sinlessness of Christ and his deity. We don’t get to judge God – he gets to judge us.

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