Christians should not be “sidelined” for their faith, according to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
In an interview with the Sunday Express newspaper Mr Pickles also vowed to put Christian values at the centre of the Government’s vision for the nation, and pledged to utilise the pastoral experience of the church.
He said: “I am determined to ensure that Christians are not seen as some kind of strange sidelined religion.
“Religious tolerance is immensely important. Religion has a valued and important role in binding our society together and is a vital part of the cultural fabric of the English and British nations.
“Labour tried to force Britons to turn their back on faith and heritage in the name of political correctness.”
Mr Pickles also criticised politically correct bureaucrats for renaming Christian celebrations.
The Communities Secretary said: “Can you honestly tell me someone who has ever said to you ‘Merry Winter-ice’? No they have not. Winter festivals exist only in the minds of beanbag-sitting weirdos.”
Mr Pickles also acknowledged the pastoral work undertaken by religious groups across the nation.
He said: “One of the things I want to do is use the pastoral experience of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in getting out there into the community.
“I am not going to make prayers compulsory or insist that people have to attend religious festivals but I am determined to recognise that pastoral work, particularly in difficult areas, is something I want to build on.”
Last month it was revealed that the Lord Mayor of Leicester had banned Christian prayers before council meetings, and branded the process “outdated, unnecessary and intrusive”.
Writing in the Leicester Secularist, Colin Hall said: “I am delighted to confirm that I too will be exercising my discretion as Lord Mayor to abolish the outdated, unnecessary and intrusive practice.
“I personally consider that religion, in whatever shape or form, has no role to play at all in the conduct of council business.”
And a report by Ofsted, the education watchdog, revealed that English schools are failing to teach pupils about basic Christian beliefs in religious education lessons.
The report warned that the teaching of Christianity in schools was often “superficial”, and that Jesus’s parables were often used to “explore personal feelings or to decide how people should behave” without any reference to their religious significance.
Ofsted also warned that the experiences of Christian pupils are being sidelined, while more attention is paid to the experiences of pupils from different faiths.