“Minority rights are a very important part of our civil conversation. We should however not forget that majorities, too, have their rights,” he commented.
While a balance between the two should be found, he said that going against the feelings of a large majority for the sake of a “tiny minority” is not rational and does not lead to a true respect of minority rights.
“Majorities tend to respect minorities, as they of course should, when they think that their rights as a majority are in turn respected and not discriminated against,” Introvigne noted. “A climate where the rights of the majorities are systematically ignored is not a climate which is favorable to general tolerance and non-discrimination.”
He also noted the case of two owners of a small hotel in the U.K. who were forced to pay a fine to a homosexual couple because they limited their double rooms to married guests. Introvigne said such disputes should instead be treated with “common sense.”
In extreme cases, he granted, perhaps there is a duty for someone to provide room for those believed to be sinning.
“In an average U.K. Town, on the other hand, probably there is a variety of accommodations, and there may be a peaceful coexistence between establishments which are ‘family-oriented,’ ‘gay friendly,’ and so on.”
Turning to the topic of freedom of artistic expression about religion, he noted that this is part of the Western heritage. Many minor and major artworks have been “remarkably free” in their negative depictions of the Church, as when Dante placed several bishops and Popes in his depiction of hell.
However, each country has its own traditions and there is a “fine line” between critical allegory, humor or satire and “insult and defamation.” Introvigne supported the prosecution of an “ultra-fundamentalist” Muslim preacher who had said “Jews are pigs.” While calling Judaism a false religion is protected by free speech, calling Jews or Christians “pigs” is a legal offense in Europe.
Discussing his other duties, the religion expert noted that his organization includes countries in central Asia and the Caucasus region where laws and regulations and religion are “comparatively new” and may need improvement. There are difficulties in registering religious bodies as legal entities or obtaining visas for missionaries.
Introvigne’s duties also include combating xenophobia and working with the Roma population.