The Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, cited Labour’s decision to stop Catholic adoption agencies acting in accordance with their beliefs as an example of an unnecessary restriction on religious groups.

He also described as “crazy” the way in which a housing association demoted a Christian manager who had made “mild” comments about gay marriage on his private Facebook page.

But Dr Brown said that overall England is still a “comfortable” place for Christians, and that part of their feelings of being ill-treated by secular authorities could be down to their early history of persecution or anxiety about their waning power.

He made his comments to a Parliamentary inquiry, chaired by the MP Gary Streeter, that is looking into whether or not Christians are being marginalised in public life.

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