09/03/2012 07:55 GMT | Updated 09/05/2012 06:12 BST

Is the Government About to Give in to Religious Pressure Over Gay Marriage?

The Catholic magazine The Tablet is reporting today that the government is about to bend to religious pressure and change the terms of the consultation on same-sex marriage to include a question about whether such a move is desirable at all.

When the consultation - to be launched later this month - was first announced, the Home Secretary, Teresa May, said that the decision to legalise gay marriage had been made and was supported by the prime minister. The consultation would only be about the finer details, not about the principle of whether it should happen or not.

Since then, the government has been under sustained attack from the Church of England the Catholic Church to drop the proposals. Cardinal Keith O'Brien caused an outcry last week with his intemperate, almost hysterical, attack on the Government's plans.

The Tablet says it was unable to get confirmation from the Home Office that a question about whether people are in favour of or opposed to gay marriage would be included in the consultation, but it said that it had been told by inside sources that this was the case.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is gearing up for a major campaign of opposition. A letter will be read out to everyone attending Mass on Sunday from the Archbishop of Westminster, explaining why it is a Catholic duty to oppose same-sex marraige. Later a leaflet will be produced to urge every Catholic to take part in the consultation and stand against the coalition government's proposals.

Catholic Voices, an organisation set up to propagandise and make excuses for the Church's excesses, has produced a ComRes poll that apparently shows that 70% of people oppose gay marriage. But all may not be quite as it seems with this survey, as this analysis of the question finds.

But even if 70% of the population do oppose gay marriage (when asked a loaded question), does it matter? Does this country allow the human rights of minorities to be steamrollered by the prejudice and ignorance of the majority? Or is it that the majority are, in reality, indifferent, and only express an opinion when asked?

Last week the United Nations issued a report arguing that state-sponsored religion was undesirable because of the almost inevitable deleterious effects it has on minority rights.

What is equally undesirable is the Church imposing its will on legislators in this way.

The National Secular Society will be writing to David Cameron urging him to stand firm against this religious assault. If he gives in to this, the Churches will feel emboldened to move on to their next target, and what we have come to see as a progressive and modern society will fall prey to reactionary demands.

There are already moves to impede women's access to abortion.

If the government is defeated on gay marriage, you can expect to see Nadine Dorries back in action - with more confidence that, this time, she can win.