Officials in Scotland have agreed to rewrite portions of a bill targeting hate crimes that some critics feared could have opened the door to prosecutions for blasphemy.

Scotland had an antiquated law on its books making blas­phemy a crime. Officials agreed to get rid of the law earlier this year and replace it with a new law banning hate crimes.

The new law, however, contained language criminalizing “stirring up hatred” against religious groups. Humanist leaders in the country pointed out that the provision could be interpreted to allow punishment of anyone who criticized religious groups or beliefs.

Humanists UK reported in late November that Scottish Justice Minister Humza Yousaf announced that government officials will remove portions of the bill that could have been construed as criminalizing the criticism of religion. The new legislation will make it clear that “antipathy, dislike, ridicule and insult” of religious beliefs is a protected form of free expression.

 

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