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UK Politics

Government treats believers as 'oddities', says Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the Government for treating religious believers as "oddities", it was revealed today.

Dr Rowan Williams said ministers were wrong to think that faiths were no longer relevant in modern Britain.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he criticised Labour for looking at religious faith as a "problem" rather than valuing the contribution it made to society.

He told the paper: "The trouble with a lot of Government initiatives about faith is that they assume it is a problem, it's an eccentricity, it's practised by oddities, foreigners and minorities.

"The effect is to de-normalise faith, to intensify the perception that faith is not part of our bloodstream. And, you know, in great swathes of the country that's how it is."

Asked if he believed political leaders should be more open about their religious beliefs, the Archbishop replied: "I don't think it would do any harm at all. I think part of establishing their human credentials is saying, 'This is where my motivation comes from. I'm in politics because this is what I believe'. And that includes religious conviction."

The Archbishop went on to propose a new "supermarket ombudsman" to protect Britain's rural economy.

He also dismissed Pope Benedict XVI's invitation for disaffected Anglicans to cross over to Rome as "theologically rather eccentric".

His comments come after he urged the Diocese of Los Angeles to think very carefully about the potential impact before it confirms a lesbian as an assistant bishop.

Dr Williams said the election of the Rev Mary Glasspool raised "very serious questions" for the Anglican Communion.

He added that the decision to confirm or reject her appointment would have "very important implications".