The Catholic Church would like to insert a conscience provision around the forthcoming equal marriage legislation. Not one that has an opt out for priests. That already exists.  But they’re looking for one for lay Christians. Asking “does he not have freedom of conscience. Is his conscience different to mine as a priest”.

At one level it sounds almost reasonable. What’s not to like about having freedom of conscience? In the end though religious based bigotry is still bigotry. Its also a power play. If you are member of a religious group and members of religious groups have an opt out from providing certain services there will be an attempt by the church to ensure that none of its members provide those services.

More fundamentally its freedom for bigotry. As with many good arguments when I Googled a few specific phrases, a well written version of what I wanted to say presents itself  on Crooked Timber

Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry. Whether the people who implemented Bob Jones University’s notorious ban on inter-racial dating considered themselves to be actively biased against black people, or simply enforcing what they understood to be Biblical rules against miscegenation is an interesting theoretical question. You can perhaps make a good argument that bigotry-rooted-in-direct-bias is more obnoxious than bigotry-rooted-in-adherence-to-perceived-religious-and-social-mandates. Maybe the people enforcing the rules sincerely believed that they loved black people. It’s perfectly possible that some of their best friends were black. But it seems pretty hard to make a good case that the latter form of discrimination is not a form of bigotry. And if Friedersdorf wants to defend his sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage people as not being bigots, he has to defend the sincerely-religiously-against-racial-miscegenation people too. They fit exactly into Friedersdorf’s proposed intellectual category.

This, by the way, is also why section 37 of the employment equality act, which legalises certain forms of institutional bigotry also needs to be removed.