Letter: Respect for other people's beliefs

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The Independent Online
Sir: The illusion that liberal principles sanction the absolute domination of minorities by the majority seems distressingly prevalent. Michael Steed (letter, 16 September) is wrong to charge David Alton with altering his opinions: adopting a principle of compelling doctors to perform abortions against their consciences changes Liberal Democrat policy into a grossly oppressive one, and the party into one that no one should support.

Mr Belsey (letter, same day), in describing an extension of the blasphemy law to cover all religions as an 'unparalleled tyranny', shows himself subject to the same illusion, as well as failing to draw the elementary distinction, well made by Mr Calver (letter, same day), between freedom to express opinions and freedom to abuse and insult.

Those with no religious belief often obtusely ask why religious believers should mind what they regard as sacred being ridiculed or satirised obscenely: they are free to go on believing as before, aren't they?

Well, suppose that you treasure a photograph of your dead parents and one day you find it defaced with obscene drawings in felt-tip pen. You do not love your parents any the less: but something precious to you has been defiled.

Believers in any religion, including Christianity, form a minority nowadays: and in a coarse age, when respect for the sensitivities of others is markedly rare, a law is pressingly needed to protect such minorities from gross public insult to what for them is holy.

Yours sincerely,

MICHAEL DUMMETT

Oxford

16 September

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