Like Tim and Mr Eugenides, I'm not happy with some of the criticism Ruth Kelly's gotten for thinking homosexuality a sin. Some of her critics, I fear, are more intolerant than she is.
They seem to believe there should be no distinction between the public and private realms - between Ruth's public role and here private beliefs. They seem to think the "fall of public man" is a good thing.
But it's not. As Richard Sennett pointed out, the effacement of the distinction produces tyrannies of intimacy." One such tyranny - which gays should recognize - is that the lack of a private space for people gives society and the state more ways to control us.
Also, the belief that social and public life consists in the interaction of characters distracts us from the true origins of power inequalities. "The result is that the forces of domination or inequity remain unchallenged."
Let's be clear. Gays do not suffer discrimination because a government minister has strange beliefs. They do so because some people have excessive or unconstrained power over others. Ruth's critics fail to see this.
What I'm objecting to here is Colin Richardson's view:
What we need, what we're crying out for, is someone in government who is an active champion of lesbian and gay equality. Not some Catholic technocrat who holds her nose while implementing policies she loathes, but a true believer. Someone who, yes, promotes homosexuality and homosexuals.
This misses the point precisely. Discrimination is not about PR. It's about power.
There's another reason we should defend Ruth. She brings a little diversity into politics. Politics is too dominated by rationalist managerialist clones. It's nice to be reminded that there are respectable alternatives to this.
Ruth, I fear, is a victim of the tyranny of rationalism. Yes, I think catholicism is an irrational superstitition. But most of the views we have are partly irrational; I certainly could not fully rationally defend my beliefs (even those you might agree with). And many of those who think Catholicism is irrational probably wouldn't know Bayes' theorem if it were to hit them in the face. Is secular liberalism really fully rational? Or is it just a fashionable faith? I'm a secular liberal myself, and I'm not sure.