LONDON – The Archbishop of Canterbury has accused the U.K. government of treating religion as an “eccentricity” and believers as “oddities.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Dr. Rowan Williams said politicians with a faith should be more open about their religious convictions and defend faith publicly as something normal and ordinary.
“I think part of establishing their human credentials is saying ‘This is where my motivation is coming from, this is what gets me up in the morning,’” he said.
“The trouble with a lot of government initiatives about faith is that they assume faith is a problem, it’s an eccentricity, it’s practiced by oddities, foreigners and minorities.”
The Anglican leader said anxiety surrounding religious extremism had made the government want to “control and limit the damage” of faith.
The effect of that, he said, was to “denormalize” faith and intensify the perception among people that faith was not “part of the bloodstream,” as he claimed it was in “great swathes of the country.”
The archbishop went on to accuse the government of treating religious groups as “slightly fishy interest groups” but said he would be “very glad” if they spoke up for faith this Christmas.
“We want to see the leaders saying faith is normal, faith is ordinary, it’s part of the background for lots of people and the direct motivation for a significant – not tiny – minority," he said.
His comments reflect widespread discontent among Christians who feel the government tolerates other faiths more than them.
Earlier in the year a report presented to the Church of England Synod argued that the government had become "unbalanced" in its approach to funding for faith groups.
The report, co-authored by the Bishop for Urban Life and Faith the Rt. Rev. Stephen Lowe, said there was a "great deal of inconsistency in the way individual ministers deal with religious groups" and claimed that Christian groups in particular had suffered "irrational prejudice" against their funding applications."
Alastair Campbell, spin chief for Tony Blair during his time as Prime Minister, famously declared "We don't do God."