A Labour MEP says she objects to the increased activity of Christian groups in the public square and faith should be a “personal eccentricity”.
The Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, who represents London, made her comments on a left-wing blog, labourlist.org.
She was responding to a recent article written by Tony Blair in the New Statesman where he warned of Christians being sidelined in Britain’s “aggressively secularist” society.
He said there was a risk that people see faith as a personal eccentricity.
Mrs Honeyball responded by writing: “Faith is and should remain exactly that – a personal eccentricity…”
Mrs Honeyball also claimed: “There has, in fact, been a marked increase in political lobbying by Christian organisations over the last ten years. We are getting more of it in the public square not less.
“I for one object to this. I do not believe Christianity should have the kind of privileged place in our public life which it so manifestly does.”
Mrs Honeyball also wrote: “While churches may be emptying – people having more sense than to pay even lip service to religion – Christianity is on the increase in the corridors of power.
“I have seen very obvious attempts to bring Christianity into the European parliament during my nine years as an MEP.
“Silvio Berlusconi attempted to appoint an intensely religious Catholic, Rocco Buttiglione, as a European Commissioner.”
Mr Buttiglione was later removed due to pressure from anti-religious campaigners. His case has become a prime example for those who say the EU has a secular bias.
Mrs Honeyball continued: “Meanwhile back in the UK the Roman Catholic church and other extreme Christian organisations tried to defeat parts of the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
“Activities such as these are not the mark of an aggressively secular society,” she suggests.
Her comments have attracted criticism from politicians in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
German MEP Elmar Brok branded her description of the Roman Catholic Church as “absolutely ridiculous” and said it shows that she “understands nothing about the Catholic church”.
Mr Brok said: “The church plays a very important role in society, every bit as important as, say, trade unions and politicians, and that is how it should be.
“Europe is based on Christian values, it is part of our European heritage and long may it continue to do so.”
Mrs Honeyball has also been criticised by colleagues in her own party, including MP Stephen Pound, who said: “What she does not seem to realise is that many people seek to become politicians because of their Catholicism.”
North West MP Jim Dobbin said: “She has no place in the Labour party because she demeans the beliefs of many secularists.”
Media reports suggest Mrs Honeyball has been called to explain herself to party chiefs but a Labour spokesman denies such claims.