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U.K. prime minister backs J.K. Rowling’s rebuke of new hate crime law

J.K. Rowling at a film premiere Invision via Associated Press/Photo by Joel C Ryan

U.K. prime minister backs J.K. Rowling’s rebuke of new hate crime law

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling on Monday slammed a a new Scottish law expanding the definition of hate speech, effectively criminalizing some critical statements about age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities. Rowling, an outspoken advocate of biological gender distinctions, scoffed at the law and invited police to arrest her if her online rebuke was found to violate it. “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal,” she wrote.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak echoed Rowling’s sentiments during an interview with Sky News, affirming that people should not be jailed for speaking common sense facts on biological sex. Sunak said he’s instead focusing on delivering policies that matter to people, citing the long tradition of free speech in the United Kingdom.

How has the law been otherwise received? Police in Scotland have received over 3,000 complaints since the law was enacted Monday, according to the BBC. U.K. sports commentator Ally McCoist referred to the new statute as madness, claiming thousands of sports fans would be violating the hate bill at a football match over the weekend. Critics also question the law’s necessity since inciting hatred over race, sexual orientation, and religion is already outlawed in the U.K.’s Public Order Act 1986.

Why was this law deemed necessary? First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf said the law is necessary to legally curb rising hatred in society, serving as an extension of the 1986 order. He insists the law has a high threshold that must be met before speech can be criminalized. He also posted images to social media of ethnic slurs he said were spray painted on his house the day the law went into effect, using it as an example of why the law is necessary.

Dig deeper: Read Carl R. Trueman’s column in WORLD Opinions on Scotland’s new hate speech law.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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