Giles Fraser: Why Opus Dei link rules Ruth Kelly out of equalities brief

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The Independent Online

The minister for equality has had a bad week. Ruth Kelly is under fire overher beliefs and her ministerial portfolio. Does she think homosexuality a sin, runs the enquiry. I'm "not going to get into these questions", is her reply. She doesn't have to.

As a member of Opus Dei, Ruth Kelly is committed to the teachings of Catholicism, including the belief that homosexuality is "objectively disordered". That's why she has played hooky from the Commons when there's been a vote on gay equality. So why did Tony Blair think she was suitable to hold the brief for equality and inclusion?

Opus Dei was founded with the notion of taking the teachings of the church to work. As its founder, Josemaría Escrivá, said: "Everyone is called to sanctify himself or herself through situations that are part of their daily life."

Thus, according to the very ethos of Opus Dei, Ms Kelly is not able to claim that her Catholicism can be left at home. Under cross examination on BBC Five Live, she must have realised she'd said something daft when arguing that it was not for ministers to make "moral judgements". If morality has no place in politics, then it's a more cynical business than we'd feared. But she didn't mean that; she just floundered.

It's not going to help that The Da Vinci Code is due out in the cinema. Thanks to Dan Brown, Opus Dei is now associated with a devious menace, involved in high-level treachery. This is often little more than warmed-up anti-Catholicism. It would be sad if those calling for a greater commitment to inclusion were to bolster their case with a prejudice that has scarred our history since the Reformation.

The Kelly appointment is more cock-up than conspiracy. These are mistakes made in the last gasp of crumbling empire. Following disastrous local election results, Mr Blairreshuffled his pack and was too distracted to really consider Ms Kelly's brief.

And it's not just about gays. The Catholic church has also resisted the notion of women as priests, let alone as bishops.

Ruth Kelly's loyalty to asexist and homophobic church is incompatible with her ministerial brief. She got the wrong job. She must go.

Dr Giles Fraser is the Vicar of Putney