David Cameron insists coalition 'cares about faith'

Following criticism from church over gay marriage and welfare cuts, PM says government opposes aggressive secularisation

The prime minister has insisted the government cares about faith and is committed to its links with Christianity despite clashes with religious groups over gay marriage and welfare cuts.

At an Easter reception at Downing Street on Wednesday, David Cameron said the coalition was keen to stand up and oppose secularisation and supported Christians' right to practice their faith.

He made reference to the installation of a new pope and archbishop of Canterbury by saying it had been an "extraordinary week" for Christians and that it was important to celebrate the importance of faith institutions in Britain.

"This government does care about faith; it does care about the institutions of faith and it does want to stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation that can sometimes happen in our society," he said.

"Wherever we go we stand up for the rights of Christians to practice their faith, and that is an important part of our country."

Cameron's pledge comes at a time when the government has received criticism from the Church of England for its plan to introduce gay marriage and for imposing welfare cuts.

Last month, the new archbishop of Canterbury expressed his concern that cuts to welfare spending would impact on the most vulnerable in society.

Addressing these criticisms, Cameron said it was "a difficult time in our country" and that the government had to take unpopular decisions but was committed to helping the poorest people across the world.

He also addressed the issue of whether government ministers should discuss their own religious beliefs by saying: "One of my predecessors said he would not 'do God'. I think we should – in a limited and responsible way."

Cameron was referring to a comment made by Labour's communications advisor Alastair Campbell who famously interrupted an interview with Tony Blair on faith by saying "We don't do God."

Tony Blair converted to Catholicism once he left office while his successor Gordon Brown made little mention of his religious views.

Cameron has previously described himself as having a Church of England faith that "grows hotter and colder by moments" while the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, is an atheist.


Cass Jones

The GuardianTramp

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