The Queen has staunchly defended the Church of England’s role in protecting freedom of religion in an event to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Her Majesty, speaking in London on Wednesday, said the Church of England’s role in public life is “under-appreciated”.
The Queen was speaking at Lambeth Palace and also told of the “proud track record” which religious groups have of “helping those in the greatest need”.
The comments came less than a week after secularists won a High Court victory banning prayers as a ‘formal’ part of council meetings.
The Queen said: “The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.
“Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.”
Her Majesty commented that faith “plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging”.
She said that faith can “act as a spur for social action”, highlighting the “proud track record” of religious groups in “helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged”.
The Queen, who is celebrating 60 years on the throne this year, also noted that “the concept of a Jubilee is rooted in the Bible”.
Last week the National Secular Society won in the High Court after a judge ruled the saying of prayers as a ‘formal’ part of local council meetings was unlawful.
However, just hours after the ruling Cabinet minister Eric Pickles promised to overturn it.
Mr Pickles said he would fast-track the commencement of a new law that will restore the right of councils to say prayers at official meetings, if they wish.
The High Court decision has attracted criticism, including from a Labour MP who described it as “utterly preposterous”.