The Catholic Church has voiced its support for a ‘conscience clause’ bill in Northern Ireland that would permit anti-gay discrimination.

DUP minister Paul Givan has tabled a bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly that would effectively exempt people with ‘strongly held’ religious convictions from equality laws– allowing them to discriminate against gay people.

A delegation led by the Bishop of Down and Connor met the DUP to discuss the measure this week.

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor, said politicians need to address the fact that there is a problem, reports the BBC.

The Church of Ireland’s Changing Attitudes Ireland spokesman Canon Charles Kenny commented, saying: “The negative effects of the proposed conscience clause will increase unreasonable and oppressive hostility towards our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) fellow citizens. We believe this proposal is viewed by many people of faith and by others as a straightforward attack on LGBT community and it is not consistent with the loving and inclusive message of Christianity”.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said in a statement: “What is proposed is not a conscience clause, it is a discrimination clause.

“This change to the law is not welcome and it is not needed. The law already strikes a fair balance between the human right to freedom of religion and the human right not to suffer discrimination.

“Northern Ireland’s First Minister should concentrate on eradicating inequalities already faced by members of the LGBTI community here, rather than lending his support to a discriminatory new law.

“He could start by publishing Stormont’s long overdue sexual orientation strategy, which could help tackle homophobia in Northern Ireland society.”