THE Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland is worried about religious intolerance and, in all honesty, so am I.

It released a statement last week declaring it had fallen victim to a “religious no-go zone” after it was ordered to re-route a parade away from St Alphonsus church in Glasgow, after reports last month that a priest had been attacked and parishioners heckled as they left mass during an Orange Walk. In response, Glasgow City Council insisted the lodge change the route of a later march, which was again due to pass St Alphonsus church. Unhappy with the request, the lodge cancelled the march altogether.

In its subsequent statement, the lodge said: “In order to offer concessions … we identified the times of the service in the church and proposed times to avoid this. All of this was rejected. We were simply told that some streets are now no-go zones based simply and horrifically on religious beliefs.

“This is religious intolerance, nothing less.”

It went on to suggest an alternative approach: that the parade should be allowed to pass St Alphonsus’s and parishioners should all come outside to greet the march. They could all “wish each other well and carry on with our own lives”, it said.

I must admit, I didn’t realise the lodge had a sideline in comedy. The notion that an Orange march passing a Catholic church, where only recently a priest was reportedly attacked in similar circumstances, could magically become an exercise in religious harmony was truly brilliant. It’s impressive spin, I’ll give it that.

If it’s genuinely interested in improving relations with the Catholic Church as an institution and public perceptions of it, perhaps it should consider how Catholics feel about these marches.

As a Catholic who grew up on the Isle of Bute, I hadn’t encountered an Orange march in the flesh until I moved to Glasgow a number of years ago. However, I’d met and known plenty of people who would strongly identify with the lodge, which describes itself as the “oldest and biggest Protestant fraternity in Scotland”, and organisation of people “bonded together to promote the ideals of our faith”.

It would be an understatement to say I did not have good experiences with those people. It was abundantly clear that I was considered inferior and problematic. These views and attitudes may not reflect how the lodge would like itself to be seen in the modern age, but there’s no denying it exists among its followers.

During my first summer in Glasgow, I’d find myself awoken at the weekends by the banging of drums and the sound of flutes. It’s a very odd experience to wake to the beating of a drum I felt was designed to let me know my place. As I became used to the schedule of marches, I’d purposely avoid certain areas. On the day of the biggest Orange march in Glasgow – the week before the 12th of July events in Belfast – I’d avoid going out altogether or leave the city. I know many other Catholics who do the same.

On one occasion, I stepped out of the house and accidentally right into the oncoming path of a parade. I initially froze, and then in a panic, ran. Was it likely that anything untoward would happen? No. But that wasn’t the point. These events instil a certain fear among many Catholics. The lodge can argue until its heart is content that there’s no danger, but it is simply wrong to dismiss how Catholics feel about it. We are a minority in Scotland and, according to hate crime statistics, a highly targeted one.

For me, it’s a no-brainer that the lodge should avoid being part of the intimidating atmosphere created by marches passing Catholic churches. If it is serious about exhibiting good relations with Catholics it shouldn’t be calling on us to step out of churches, while fearing for our safety, to help it prove a point.

But all of that said, there’s an element of the lodge’s concerns that I do sympathise with. Amongst the debate about all of this, it’s clear that some of the condemnation of the lodge does not originate from a place of concern about balancing religious freedoms, but rather of religious intolerance.

I may not like Orange walks, but in principle I support the right of its members and supporters to march. The Orange Lodge is an easy target for those who do not believe the state should accommodate expressions of religious freedom. Just as they’d decry Orange walks, these are often the same people who would have complained that the visit of Pope Benedict to Glasgow in 2010 cost too much money and disruption to justify.

And so, to an extent I actually do share the lodge’s concern, and that’s why I hope it will step back from this ludicrous determination to march past Catholic churches. In the end, all it will be is a gift to those who really want to see the end of the lodge, and it may be surprised to find that this attitude isn’t coming from Catholics.