The Coalition will “do God”, a Government minister has told Church of England Bishops.
Speaking in Oxford on Wednesday, Baroness Warsi said that the former Labour Government had marginalised faith.
She said Labour had encouraged the “rise of a new kind of intellectual, who dines out on free-flowing media and sustains a vocabulary of secularist intolerance”.
But under the Coalition she insisted that the church would play a central role in the Big Society, a scheme where grassroots volunteers get involved in their local communities.
She said: “I don’t just want to say to you that you have a lot to contribute to building the Big Society.
“I want to tell you that for me you are at the heart of society already and key to its future, and that this government will be on your side.”
The peer also dismissed attempts by “secular fundamentalists” to brand faith communities as “intolerant” groups who are “exclusive” in their welfare provision.
She cautioned that “recent research by York University shows that faith-based provision for the homeless was both more open and inclusive than other agencies.
“It also came with far fewer strings attached, because it less often danced to the tune of ‘targets’.”
The peer also quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who last year accused Labour of treating faith as an eccentricity “practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities”.
She said: “They were also too suspicious of faith’s potential for contributing to society – behind every faith-based charity, they sensed the whiff of conversion and exclusivity.
“And because of these prejudices they didn’t create policies to unleash the positive power of faith in our society.”
Earlier this year the Government Minister for Communities said that the state will no longer try to clamp down on Christianity.
Eric Pickles, who was speaking at a meeting of faith leaders, said: “The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity and other faiths are over.”
Faith leaders at the meeting with Mr Pickles expressed their encouragement at the Government’s position.
Mr Pickles, who is MP for Brentwood and Ongar in Essex, also commented that the new Government values “the role of religion and faith in public life”.
And in July Andy Burnham, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, said his party needed to apologise for creating a culture which sidelined Christians.