British politicians have a "ridiculous" attitude to faith, Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary and a Roman Catholic has said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Duncan Smith made the comments last night as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a think-tank focusing on poverty in Britain, hosted their annual awards evening.
Although he pointed out CSJ was not a faith-based organisation, Duncan Smith said he had "the highest respect" for faith-based charities and criticised MPs who are "very wary" about the role of religion. Faith should, the secretary of state said, be part of ordinary political life.
"Everywhere it [faith] is a natural discourse," the former Conservative party leader said. "If you go to Italy, nobody would get bothered about faith [being involved]. I think the political class [in Britain] is kind of ridiculous about it, if you ask me.
"The CSJ is not a faith-based organisation, but I don't care whether you're faith-based or not faith-based, If what you do is to change lives then you're welcome.
"People don't like the idea of sometimes changing lives and sometimes people converting to faith, that's been around for thousands of years and I just think sometimes politicians get very wary about it.
"But my simple answer is if you look back in the 19th century and into the early 20th century, who were the organisations that were driving change, whether it was anti-slavery or the ragged school movement? It was faith-based charities. Who was ending the factory hours, who got children off the factory floor? It was again faith-based campaigns."
The CSJ Awards highlights the work of small local charities around Britain with the aim to give them "recognition with a view to getting them greater recognition," Duncan Smith said in an interview with the Huffington Post who sponsored the awards. The selected charities receive £10,000 which, he said, "is quite a lot of money" for small charities who generally live hand to mouth.
He also directed his comments at the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris which killed 130 people.
"When an event like Paris or whatever happens, people need to know that there is something else in their lives," he said.
"And all I say is that for those who make faith their driving force, I have nothing but the highest respect for the work that they do. But there is another faith, their personal faith in other human beings. I don't mind who it is, or what they do, because if the outcome is lives changed, you just have to admire them."