IN the debate on hate crime (Letters, June 2 & 3), I might as well be the first to quote the lines attributed to Voltaire– I detest your views but I will die for your right to express them. Maybe he never spoke those words, but they do express a dilemma. When does a strong belief – in socialism, Islam or Calvinism – become a prejudice? It feels odd to be defending the late Pastor Jack Glass in his anti-Catholic prejudice, but the preservation of freedom of speech means that his right to express those views was and is a price worth paying.

The existing legislation, as Tim Hopkins (Letters, June 3) notes, provides safeguards against those who wish to express anti-Semitic or overtly racist views, but the problem is that since that legislation was passed we have grown highly, perhaps excessively sensitive, and risk restricting hard-won rights of expression. The Left in particular is currently tearing itself apart over questions of gender recognition, but it is better to have open, robust, debate even at the cost of causing discomfort to certain parties.

However, I doubt the validity of M Green's point (Letters, June 3) that Mr Lyle is free from blame because he was actually only quoting someone else. That is nothing more than a sophisticated version of the schoolboy plea – it wisnae me. I presume Mr Lyle agreed with the sentiments he expressed, whoever voiced them first. His grasp of history is poor in my opinion, and I presume he would on the same grounds blame Syrian refugees fleeing from oppression. He has the right to put forward such views, but also the duty to defend them.

Joseph Farrell, Glasgow G12.

THE proposed Hate Crime Bill is an attempt to limit free speech, masquerading as concern for vulnerable people. It violates the basic principle of equality under the law. It seeks to put people into identity groups and builds in extra protections for these people only. That is a recipe for injustice.

It also supposes that it is possible to establish accurately the motivation behind perpetrators’ actions. This is a mind-reading trick which is likely to be fraught with difficulty.

It includes words, written and spoken, as potential crimes. This is the most sinister element of all. One man’s robust criticism is another man’s hate speech.

I suggest your readers check out this proposed legislation for themselves. It is available online.

John McArthur, Glasgow G73.

HATE crime is spreading across the legal landscape of what used to be a pleasant and tolerant country. It is difficult to see where this erosion of our freedoms might stop. After all, how many crimes are motivated by love?

Could we not just scrap all these “hate crime” categories and simplify the legal landscape by replacing them with “bullying” or “abuse of power” as appropriate?

John Breckenridge, Kilmarnock.

I WAS interested in the Rev Dr Robert Anderson’s support of Israel’s right to occupy the West Bank as it had been part of the homeland of the Jews for 3,000 years (Letters, June 3). However, 3,500 years ago it belonged to the Canaanites and they were subjected to the first Jewish land grab. It is quite ridiculous to quote rights of possession based on history as you can go back indefinitely to the beginning of human occupation. The point at which you start your history of possession depends on your political views. Surely possession should be based on need and justice for the inhabitants.

Rob Smith, Stirling.