Objections to gay marriage

Sir: Hugo Rifkind (27 October) thinks that religious objections to gay marriage can be ignored because Christians have no right to impose their beliefs on others. He sees nothing illiberal, though, in a small number of progressives seeking to force their new definition of marriage on the rest of us. Our government is threatening to misappropriate a word which owes its value to centuries of mainly Christian tradition in this country. Those many of us who stand in that tradition, both in and out of the Church, protest that the government has no right to do so.
James McEvoy
Chertsey, Surrey

Sir: On gay marriage Hugo Rifkind (27 October) overlooks the Dot Wordsworth argument. The union of two persons of the same sex cannot be called a marriage because every dictionary of the English language since that language began has defined a marriage as the union of two persons of the opposite sex. For the same linguistic reason a substance cannot be called a harmless poison because the dictionary defines a poison as a lethal substance.

There are other etymological objections. The dictionary calls the male partner in a marriage the husband and the female partner the wife. It defines wedlock as the state or condition of being husband and wife. And so on.
Francis Bennion
Devon 

Ease the pain

Sir: Spot on, Prue Leith (‘A brother’s suffering’, 27 October). I myself was suddenly hit, after 67 years of healthy life, with a double-whammy this summer — deep-vein thrombosis closely followed by malignant tumour of the brain.

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I spent seven interminable weeks in hospital. Often, at seven o’clock in the evening, there was nothing I wished for more than that a kindly and compassionate doctor would administer a kindly and compassionate dose of morphine to ease my passage to the next world. But of course doctors have their lives and careers to consider.

If the truth be known, I suspect that there are far more people than are generally acknowledged, in hospitals and at home, who pray not to have to face another day on this earth, and long for ‘assisted suicide’.
Robert Triggs
By email 

Leave our school alone

Sir: I wish to correct the misleading opinions expressed in James Delingpole’s column, ‘Treating Islam with special reverence is cultural suicide and is just plain wrong’ (20 October). Freya, his ‘brilliant niece’ whom he mentions in the article, attends my school. By naming Freya, her uncle has put her in an invidious position, causing national attention she and the school did not deserve. This is irresponsible journalism, especially as both Freya and her father feel that the last paragraph (‘I want to get my beloved and brilliant niece out of there. She deserves better. What I’d really love is for her to enjoy the education I and her Dad had at our old school, Malvern’) is totally incorrect. She is enjoying her schooling and her father describes the school as ‘outstanding’ for his children. I can only conclude that Uncle James is mischief-making. Cynically, he appears also to be seeking funding!

The philosophy and ethics GCSE course, delivered by the RE department, aims to promote tolerance and understanding of all religions, challenging preconceptions. This course has four modules; three on Christianity, one on Islam. Extremism and multi-faith positions are equally challenged and discussed.

Perhaps James Delingpole would like to come to our school and take part in our inter-school debate, which will be held at the local church. The topic ‘Should faith schools be allowed?’ promises some lively opinions which will be delivered in a respectful way.

Finally, I would ask that we do not belittle young people with preconceptions gleaned from our own school experiences. Students like Freya are capable of sensible, challenging discussion, so essential in today’s world.
Neil S. Morris
Headteacher, Christopher Whitehead Language College, Worcester

Wrong signals

Sir: I warmly applaud your leading article (20 October) bringing the British government to task for closing its consulate in Basra. The decision to shut such an important mission sends entirely the wrong signal to Baghdad and can only do harm to British businesses pitching for contracts in the face of sharp competition from the Far East. I recently saw the official government figures for bilateral trade between the UK and Iraq. In 2011 Britain exported just £204 million of goods to Iraq, with only £2 million coming the other way. And take the Kurdistan region, where there is so much goodwill towards Britain. Out of the 44 oil and gas fields, only two British companies have concessions. Given Britain’s long history in Iraq, and the sacrifices that have been made in terms of human cost, these figures are nothing short of scandalous. Other nations are far more perceptive and realise that to win major contracts you need a strong UK Trade and Investment presence in Iraq. France has appointed an honorary consul in Nasriya and will be appointing another diplomat in Basra. For years there has been a French business centre next to the French Embassy in Baghdad. Turkey has consulates in Ebril, Mosul and Basra, as well as an embassy in Baghdad. Not surprisingly, the Turks are some of the highest and most successful investors in the whole of Iraq. The message is clear: Britain should be opening up UKTI missions in Iraq, not closing them.
Baroness Nicholson
Executive chairman of the Iraq Britain Business Council
House of Lords, London SW1

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated