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Catholic Bishops accuse the BBC of ‘bigotry’ over Jacob Rees-Mogg interview questioning his views on same-sex marriage

By Sam Forsdick

Two Catholic Bishops have described a BBC Daily Politics interview as a “new bigotry” for its questioning of Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Jo Coburn interviewed the Conservative MP on his Catholic faith and asked whether his religious belief was “a barrier to holding high office”.

Coburn also asked whether Rees-Mogg had a problem with fellow Conservative MP Ruth Davidson being gay and engaged to be married.

Rees-Mogg replied: “The sacrament of marriage is available to a man and a woman, this is the teaching of the Catholic Church, which I accept.”

She added: “Can you see that that’s a problem if you were to hold a senior position?”

The questions came after fellow Conservative MPs Anna Soubry and Justine Greening raised the point that Rees-Mogg’s views on gay marriage and abortion were incompatible with leading the party.

During the interview Rees-Mogg said: “Why do you pick on these views of the Catholic Church?”

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He added: “Isn’t this stretching into religious bigotry?”

In comments made to the Catholic Herald, Bishop Mark Davies said: “The hounding of a Member of Parliament like Jacob Rees-Mogg for simply sharing the faith of the Catholic Church indicates 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.”

Bishop John Keenan was similarly critical of Coburn and the BBC and questioned her line of inquiry.

Keenan told the Catholic Herald: “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 added: “He [Rees-Mogg] 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.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “Jacob Rees Mogg is viewed by many as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party and possible future prime minister.

“Jo Coburn did not question his right to be a practising Catholic in public life, and did not raise his Catholicism, but used the interview to explore whether Mr Rees Mogg’s views on gay marriage and abortion were out of step with the mainstream of his colleagues at Westminster.”

They added: “Jo also referred directly to several Conservative MPs who have said they believe Mr Rees Mogg’s views on the issues of gay marriage and abortion to be incompatible with leading the party, and it was not unreasonable to ask him to respond to those claims.”

Bishop Keenan has previously complained to BBC Scotland after it shared a video tackling Homophobia.

The video implied that Holy Communion “tastes like cardboard and smells like hate”.

In a letter to the Catholic Herald he claimed the clip helped to fuel a climate of “hostility to Catholics”.

A recent independent poll of more than 1,000 UK adults found that only 37 per cent of people thought the BBC’s coverage was politically neutral.

Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay

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