During his visit to Britain, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken against what he called "aggressive secularism", which he accused of attempting to drive God and religion out of the public sphere with an intolerance that has faint echoes of Nazism and Communism.

He is unfortunately correct that, especially under the previous Labour government, Britain has become a more intolerant place. Labour can be proud of its history in working to end discrimination against ethnic minorities and women and the persecution of homosexuality.

However far from ending discrimination it has only succeeded in moving it to a different group of people, namely those who do not share their liberal views.

This has been subtly demonstrated by the Pope's visit to Great Britain. In its coverage the BBC has made much of the Pope's social teaching on the unholy trinity of abortion, contraception and homosexuality (despite the fact the Pope has barely touched on these issues while here).

At every opportunity the BBC has brought up these teachings and its journalists are constantly asking the Catholic faithful about their views on his teaching, always with the implicit assumption that none of them agree with it.

What has been striking is that as far as I can see they have yet to find a single Catholic who agreed with Pope Benedict XVI on such issues. That's not to say they all disagree (a few do) but most are reluctant to speak about it. Why?

It is perhaps because to do so could get them arrested. At the "Big Assembly" on Friday the BBC interviewed two Catholic teachers who would not say a thing about these issues despite repeated questioning. I could not help but think that a teacher who said live on air that they thought homosexuality to be a sin might find themselves out of a job very quickly.

This is a very disturbing development in Britain, which has for long been a country associated with tolerance and freedom of speech.

Those who oppose the Pope have exercised that right to free speech, with gay groups voicing their anger at Benedict XVI as he drives by in his Popemobile. But imagine a role reversal in which Catholics express their opposition to a gay pride parade. While those who oppose the Pope and his faith get a BBC interview, those who oppose gay pride marches can get a police caution and even a criminal record.

True tolerance means allowing freedom of speech to those whose views may be considered reprehensible, not arresting those who do not kowtow to liberal thought. This worrying trend has led to some conservative minded people to transform the old adage often attributed to Voltaire that "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" into "A liberal is someone who will defend to the death your right to agree with him".

In recent times Peter Tatchell, controversial gay rights campaigner and prominent anti-Pope protestor, has shown that he understands this and has shown commendable tolerance to his opponents just as he asks for tolerance of his own more liberal views.

A few years ago, in a Channel Four dispatches programme about the erosion of civil liberties in Britain, Mr Tatchell gave his comments on the case of a Christian couple who had been threatened with seven years in prison for a "Hate Crime" when they asked their local council for permission to put Christian literature next to that of homosexual literature in public libraries.

He said, "If I sat down with this couple and talked with them I doubt that I would agree much about their views on homosexuality, but nor would I agree with police intervening and threatening them with prosecution and possibly a jail term for expressing their point of view.

"In a free society we sometimes have to put up with views we disagree with, we find offensive, perhaps even insulting because that is the price of freedom".

If we are to remain a free and tolerant society then we all have to pay the price of freedom as Mr Tatchell says and that means tolerating views which we may consider offensive rather than persecuting them, if not then the day may come when our own views are no longer tolerated by the state.