I agree very much with the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend Miss Widdecombe. I have mentioned a couple of legal cases, and one of the problems is that the matter is a fundamental question of law. There is a constant draining away of our spiritual and moral foundations; nothing is certain or clear any more. Sooner or later, someone will say, "What's the point in the Queen having to take an oath? What is the point in Members of Parliament doing so?"
There were similar cases in the Liberal past. Mr. Bradlaugh, for example, took exception to taking an oath, but that was not because he wanted to attack the Christian religion; it was a matter of personal conviction. He was supported by many in the Liberal party, such as John Bright and others, who believed profoundly that a person should be entitled, as a matter of freedom of speech, to take such a position. An unlevel playing field is emerging, and I endorse what my right hon. Friend said about the situation outside Westminster cathedral. If the situation had been reversed, there is no doubt whatever that there would have been a serious onslaught on the person or persons taking part in the demonstration. I am glad to say that I do not believe—with slight reservations about some of the more extreme racist elements in our society—that those circumstances would arise in the first place. We are a tolerant and fair-minded people.
Even in the days of empire, we made a significant case for toleration of other religions in those parts of the world where we held governmental sway. We went out of our way to ensure that people were properly protected. Taking such a position is a judgment of wisdom and statesmanship. That is one of the reasons why, for example, even in Roman times, there was recognition of the other religions that existed within Rome's overarching jurisdiction. It is also a reason for the extent of the aversion to the Bulgarian atrocities when the Ottoman empire engaged in a process of genocide, which led the Government of this country to take such a strong position against events there.
At the heart of our debate is a question about what sort of society we are. I believe that we are a Christian society and that we should be tolerant of other religions, but that is not to say that we should back away from the fundamentals that underpin our Christian way of life. The law of blasphemy lies at the heart of that.