The Government pays ‘lip service’ to Christianity and favours Islam and other minority religions, according to a report commissioned by the Church of England.
The damning study criticises the policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for focusing ‘intently’ on minority beliefs whilst neglecting the Anglican faith.
It also accuses Labour of ignoring the breakdown in society and failing to recognise the Church’s potential contribution to public affairs.
The report says: ‘We encountered on the part of the Government a significant lack of understanding, or interest in, the Church of England’s current or potential contribution in the public sphere.
‘Indeed we were told that Government had consciously decided to focus… almost exclusively on minority religions.’
The report calls for a ‘Minster for Religion’ to utilise the untapped reserves of volunteers in churches and charities and accuses the Government of ‘religious illiteracy’.
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Taking a break?
It comes days after Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, accused Gordon Brown of sacrificing liberty for misguided notions of equality and betraying New Labour’s mantra of ‘rights and responsibilities’.
The 180-page report, entitled ‘Moral, But No Compass’ shows how church leaders feel betrayed by the Government.
Mr Brown – who emphasised the strength of his ‘moral compass’ on becoming Prime Minister – is in particular likely to be stung by the title of the report.
The Government will find it hard to dismiss its findings as it represents the opinions of 70 Church of England bishops as well as more than 250 MPs, peers and academics.
In more bad news for Labour the study also praises the Conservatives for their ‘strident’ plans to tackle poverty.
This comments mark a change in the relationship between the Church and the Tories.
Relations have been strained since senior clergy blamed Margaret Thatcher for Britain’s deepening spiritual decline in the 1980s.
The Bishop of Hulme, the Right Rev Stephen Lowe commissioned the The Von Hugel Institute at Cambridge to carry out the study
It was reported last night that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are among those who have endorsed the findings.
However, a Church of England spokesman said church leaders have not yet seen the report and will respond on Monday when it is officially published.
The spokesman went on: ‘The hard-hitting report raises issues of considerable importance, the authors say, and makes recommendations that challenge the Government to recognise the Churches’ involvement and potential in public service reform.
‘Authors Francis Davis, Elizabeth Paulhus and Andrew Bradstock will present their report to the Church on Monday when Bishop Stephen Lowe will respond.’