Archbishop calls for more political debate

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged political leaders to pay more attention to religion when considering new policy.

Dr Rowan Williams said he believes that governments need to consider humanist ideas before making decisions, citing the proposed development of a supercasino in Manchester as indicative of the way policy does not always get proper discussion and debate before it is implemented.

The head of the Anglican church had previously delivered a speech that some observers took as criticism of prime minister Tony Blair for his style of leadership, especially with regard to the war on Iraq.

But speaking to BBC's Newsnight programme last night, Dr Williams attempted to further explain his thoughts.

"What I mean is the engines of government seem at the moment to be pushing forward a number of agendas without giving very much space for discussion of how particularly they are going to benefit society in a positive, humanistic direction," he said.

"One of these would be the debate on the supercasino that some of us were involved in just before Easter.

"It seemed to me that there should have been a wider, better-resourced debate about whether the encouragement of semi-industrialised gambling was actually a proper tool for social regeneration."

Dr Williams concluded: "I do not expect governments to be talking religion. But I do expect government to be giving space and opportunity for the kind of moral discussion informed by religion, as by many other strands of humanistic thought."

The spiritual head of the international Anglican community also suggested that Mr Blair and US president George Bush should have prayed before taking the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003.

"I'm sure [Mr Blair] should have prayed and I think perhaps he should have prayed with George Bush," Dr Williams added.

Dr Williams has previously criticised the US-led war in Iraq and suggested Britain's involvement in the conflict weakened public trust in political leaders.

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