THE Scottish Government’s proposed hate crime legislation has been targeted by a well-funded conservative fundamentalist evangelical organisation, described as a “hate group” by an American civil rights organisation.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – formed by more than 30 Christian leaders to defend religious freedom – has long disputed the designation by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. It is a group with controversial opinions on gay rights.

One of the founders, Alan Sears, co-wrote a book first published in 2003, which is still available, called The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat To Religious Freedom Today. It claims that LGBTQ people are more likely to engage in paedophilia.

The group has previously campaigned in favour of a law in Belize making gay sex punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.

It has been staunch in its criticism of the Scottish Government’s Hate Crime Bill, comparing it to laws in countries that are “kind of totalitarian, that don’t enjoy democracy like we do”.

The SNP MSP Tom Arthur tweeted: “Hate crime proposals must be subject to robust debate. However it would be naive to assume that some raising concerns, nominally on the issue of freedom of expression, may not have other agendas.”

ADF told The National: “We reject the tweeted accusations of MSP Thomas Arthur and encourage further debate on the proposed Scottish Hate Crime Bill.

“In a democratic society, ideas must be discussed and countered with more ideas rather than excluding those with whom you disagree from the debate. Labelling those you disagree with as ‘hateful’ simply shuts off debate – this follows the same logic as the Hate Crime Bill which would go so far as to criminalise them.”

A number of groups have concerns over the new legislation, particularly the plan to make “stirring up of hatred” extend to all characteristics, including race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status.

Under these proposals, a person will commit a crime if they communicate “threatening, abusive or insulting material” which could stir up hatred.

Holyrood Justice Committee’s consultation on the proposed law change closed yesterday.

In its submission the Law Society of Scotland expressed fears that “the bill presents a significant threat to freedom of expression, with the potential for what may be abusive or insulting to become criminalised”.

Taking to Twitter, Humza Yousaf said: “The bill will not prevent you expressing controversial or offensive views. Just don’t do it in a threatening or abusive way that is likely or intended to stir up hatred.”