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Rector writes In my previous pastoral letter, I mentioned that March was going to be a momentous time for our journey together and for the Diocese. Well, we have launched our Increased Giving Campaign and we shall see the fruits in due course. However, little did I think that our search for a new Bishop would end in the stalemate of the recent election. I’m not sure of what to make of it all. I’m still working through the implications of that decision. At first flush it seems more than a little depressing that a Diocese of our size and history cannot produce a suitable outcome with three good candidates. Clearly for a significant number of members they were not good enough. I can only hope and pray that we will be able to handle the future with more clarity and resolve than the present disaster that is the Brexit-approach to decision making. I have said before that there is a great danger that in our obsession to arrive at a decision we have become master navel-gazers and the rest of life in this country and the world just rolls on un-noticed. I wonder if the following might be a good example of what I speak? How many of you have noticed that there is a proposal to introduce a Bill before the Scottish Parliament to be entitled “The Hate Crime Bill”? The Bill follows on the work of a review group chaired by the High Court Scottish Judge Lord Bracadale. The group has advised Scottish Ministers to enshrine age and gender as aggravating factors in criminal offences. On the face of it, it appears a sane and sensible idea. Who would want to say that “hate crimes” are a good thing? However, look again. One of its proposed clauses states that it would be an attempt to stir up hatred if one expressed orthodox religious views about sexuality or marriage. Current legislation allows any existing offence to be aggravated by prejudice in respect of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender identity. The Bracadale Review Group recommends adding age and gender to that list. What’s the problem, you say? Well let’s imagine you are a member of a church that holds “traditional” views about sex, marriage and sexuality. On one view it could be argued that to hold and espouse such views would be a breach of any future Hate Crime Act. The Roman Catholic Church certainly believes so. In its submission to Bracadale it asserted that hypersensitivity in Scottish society meant that stating its position on marriage or human sexuality would be seen as “an attempt to stir up hatred”. The submission went on to say that “there must be room for robust debate and exchange of views, otherwise we become an intolerant, illiberal society… and there is a very real danger that expressing or even holding individual or collective opinions or beliefs will become a hate crime”. So, what do you think? Do you think it’s a basic freedom for members of the Roman Catholic Church (and I accept that there are many Christians who are members of other Churches who would be in sympathy with Roman Catholics) to express “traditional” views? Do you think it’s a proper exercise of “freedom of expression and of thought, conscience and religion” as allowed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights? On the other side of the argument, do you think that urging, say, a one man-one woman view of marriage or that same-sex marriage is wrong, must always be viewed as a hate crime and, if the Bill becomes law, illegal? I must admit that I find this to be a very complex matter indeed. It throws into sharp relief the tension between those who argue that in a free and democratic society one should be able to express any view one wishes versus those who say that the state has to protect the sensibilities of certain of its members. Organised religion is not exempt from this process as exemplified by a clearly concerned and agitated Roman Catholic Church. Are they correct to be so troubled? What do you think? The Rector