RELIGION: Scottish Government urged to follow Pope’s lead and foster “constructive dialogue”

Bishop Joseph Toal, Pope Francis and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

By Democrat reporter

Bishop Joseph Toal has called on the Scottish Government to act in the words of Pope Francis to “foster encounter and to seek convergence on at least some issues.”

Writing in today’s Herald newspaper, Bishop Toal, the Bishop of Motherwell, made reference referred to the Encyclical released by the Vatican last week.

He said: “I hope the government will continue to foster encounter and to seek convergence by listening to concerns raised by many about a piece of proposed legislation.”

Bishop Toal, whose brother Vincent is the parish priest of St Michael’s, Dumbarton, has urged further amendments to the controversial Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill.

This follows the decision by the SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to amend the Bill so as to raise the criminal threshold of the controversial stirring up offences from a ‘likelihood’ to actually stirring up hatred. 

Bishop Toal said: “The Catholic Church will continue to argue for further change to this legislation to include; more equitable and robust freedom of expression provisions; greater clarity around the definitions of ‘hatred’, ‘abusive’ and ‘insulting’ which remain precariously vague.”

He also asked the Scottish Government to “address the outstanding concerns of many, that religious texts, books and social media messages expressing certain views could be considered ‘abusive’ under the proposed law and act to protect freedom of expression and people’s right to be themselves and to be different.”

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