Should a modern nation allow religious groups an exception from laws protecting minorities from discrimination? Should groups professing essentially 1st Century prejudices be exempt from 21st Century legislation?
You can’t innoculate a society against intolerance. It’s probably written into the genome by hundreds of thousands of years of adrenaline-fueled tribal existence and by the pretty basic caveman fear of the unknown. Prejudice towards minorities is atavistic – a throwback to simpler, scarier times when the unknown might… well… eat you.
You can aspire to transcend your intolerance, though, and our body of laws expresses this aspiration. Permitting Catholics (or Muslims or Scientologists) to opt-out and ignore these laws is a crappy compromise with the history of bigotry but probably a necessity. I hate the idea that loving couples ready to care for needy children should be shown a big ‘No Gays’ sign by these backward adoption agencies but, on balance, I think we need to be tolerant even of backwardness occasionally.
Taking a legislative cosh to the Catholics would be mean-spirited and unhistoric. Seeking proposals for reform and setting reasonable deadlines would be better: a grown-up approach, respectful of the church’s difficulty reconciling the here-and-now with ancient doctrine.
Magnus Linklater in The Times is worried about the consequences of a possible Kelly resignation. Stephen Bates in The Guardian knows that the Archbishop of Canterbury has personal experience of the quality of gay parenting. The Beeb has a handy gay adoption Q&A.