The chairman of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phililps, has attacked "fashionable" views mocking and marginalising religion and say his Commission will stand up for believers, reports the Sunday Telegraph in England.
In a wide-ranging interview, he also warns religious groups of the danger of extremism, saying some Christian activists are not fighting for their religion but for political influence - and says that his own background as the son of immigrants from Guyana means he fears "undiluted" attitudes to homosexuality risk Afro-Carribean communities not integrating into the mainstream.
Mr Phillips has become one of the first and most high-profile figures in English public life to warn people of faith feel "under siege" from "fashionable" anti-religious views - which he admitted the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been wrongly identified with.
"The thing I've become anxious about in recent times is this – there is certainly a feeling amongst some people of belief that they are under siege, that they are often disadvantaged, that they are looked at and considered in some way different and their faith makes them less worthy of regard," he said.
"There is a view that says religion is a private matter and it's entirely a choice. I think that's entirely not right. "Faith identity is part of what makes life richer and more meaningful for the individual. It is a fundamental part of what makes some societies better than others in my view.
"I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege. They're in a world where there are a lot of very clever people who have a lot of access to the airwaves and write endlessly in the newspapers knocking religion and mocking God. The people who want to drive religion underground are much more active, much more vocal.
There is no doubt there's quite a lot of intolerance towards people of faith and towards belief.
"There's a great deal of polemic which is anti-religious, which is quite fashionable."
FULL STORY Trevor Phillips wades into debate on religion in modern society (Sunday Telegraph)