“Be mindful of who is telling you what to think”

Caitlin Logan in The National writes about how the US Christian Right ended up with uncritical coverage in Scottish newspapers.

Somewhat unsurprisingly to anyone who has been paying attention to public debates over apparently controversial legislation in Scotland over the past two decades, Free To Disagree is a campaign led by The Christian Institute.

The Newcastle-based institute was one of two Christian organisations behind the Be Reasonable campaign against the “smacking ban” which passed in the Scottish Parliament last year. It played a significant role in halting the proposed Named Person scheme which would have given each child in Scotland a single point of contact to safeguard their welfare. And it has thrown its weight behind numerous campaigns and legal challenges across the UK against same-sex civil parternships, marriage and adoption, as well as abortion and assisted dying.

…That ADF International should now crop up in the debate over Scotland’s hate crime laws is, therefore, as predictable as it is ominous. It is also no surprise that it appears to be working in lockstep with The Christian Institute, given that the former describes the latter as its “allied organisation”, and the two previously worked together on a legal challenge on behalf of a registrar who refused to officiate same-sex civil partnerships.

…Part of being organised, of course, means being astute communicators, and these organisations are getting better at this all the time; using respectable, legalistic language to make themselves more palatable, all while pouring money into socially regressive causes that would see the rights of women and minorities stripped away. This is why the ADF International columns presented the Hate Crime Bill as a threat to open debate among feminists; this was a cynical ploy to muddy the waters, while eluding the organisation’s own agenda entirely.

…free speech means very little when organisations or individuals can spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to scare politicians out of backing legislation they don’t like. Whether the basis for their hostility is religious belief or financial interest, the end result is the same: democracy is demeaned and the voices of those without means are drowned out.