Catholic Bishops have accused the BBC of “bigotry” for questioning Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg over his anti-gay views.
Rees-Mogg, who is considered a frontrunner in the next race for the Conservative Party leadership, has been a prominent opponent of LGBT equality, saying in 2013 that he chooses to be “whipped” by the Catholic Church rather than by his party on the issue.
The prominent backbencher repeatedly criticised former Prime Minister David Cameron for introducing same-sex marriage, telling supporters: “I’m not proud that this government passed that into law.”
The Brexit-backing MP was interviewed on the BBC’s Daily Politics on May 22, and quickly grew defensive in the face of questions about his anti-gay marriage stance.
He said that his opposition to equal marriage was “an issue of sacramentality. Sacrament of marriage is one that is defined by the church, not the state.
“The sacrament of marriage is available to a man and a woman, this is the teaching of the Catholic Church which I accept.”
When BBC host Jo Coburn pressed him on the subject, he turned the tables, accusing her of discriminating against him.
“You’re saying that tolerance only goes so far, and you shouldn’t be tolerant of the teaching of the Catholic Church,” he said. “Isn’t this stretching into religious bigotry?”
Rees-Mogg refused to say that he supported the law on same-sex marriage as it currently is, instead pointing out there was not currently the will in Parliament or among the public to change it.
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, who has repeatedly spoken out against same-sex marriage, told the Catholic Herald that the BBC was guilty of “hounding” Rees-Mogg “for simply sharing the faith of Catholic Church.”
The Bishop, who previously said it would be “the ultimate failure” to accept gay people, said this indicated that “the BBC and its interviewers see Catholic teaching as being somehow beyond public tolerance.
“It is hard to see this treatment of Catholic politicians as being other than a new bigotry,” he added.
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley joined in the criticism after last month demanding an apology from the BBC over an anti-homophobia video which referenced the impact of religious homophobia from a “Bible basher.”
Rather than during her duty as a journalist, he said Coburn was guilty of “aggressive secularism,” adding that she had attempted to “hide behind the old red-herrings of ‘other people say,’ and ‘members of your own party say.'”
He continued: “When that particular trick wasn’t working, she had to lay her cards on the table and put to him the notion – as a serious question, can you believe! – that being a practising Catholic should be a barrier to high public office.
“In short, that Catholics like Rees-Mogg simply can’t be Prime Minister because it’s just not British in this day and age,” he added.
“She openly wondered if it was a ‘problem’ to hold ordinary Catholic beliefs in high office, and seriously suggested that Catholics who were against the likes of abortion and same-sex marriage should be barred from decision-making in public life.
“Rees-Mogg was quite right to call this secular bigotry. What else is it?”
He continued: “He was right to call out the BBC for picking on the Catholic Church particularly, and to signal that it would not treat Muslims or Jews in anything like the same prejudicial way in which it now routinely and casually treats Catholics.”