Former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd has attacked government plans to introduce VAT on church renovations, claiming the religious institution already has "a raw deal".
Lord Hurd's rare intervention follows a torrent of criticism directed at Chancellor George Osborne in the wake of his Budget.
There has been vociferous opposition to the so-called "pasty" and "granny" tax and proposals to cap tax relief for charitable donations.
VAT is already levied on repairs to churches, cathedrals and other listed buildings, but under the new plans outlined in Mr Osborne's budget "approved alterations", such as new disabled access, plumbing systems and structural changes, will also be subject to the 20% tax.
Commenting on the proposed move, Lord Hurd told The Sunday Times: "I think it needs to be looked at in the light of the whole scheme of relations between the Church and the state.
"The Church has, on the whole, a pretty raw deal and this is just one example of it."
The peer, who served in the Conservative governments of Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major, added: "We are governed by people who are vaguely sympathetic to the Church and would be horrified if it started to disintegrate, but don't quite understand that in order to keep it all going it needs a bit of effort and a bit of sympathy.
"It is taken for granted and that, I think, is a pity."
Church leaders are due to meet ministers at the Treasury tomorrow. They are expected to warn that the measure will penalise tens of thousands of parishioners who donate to local churches.
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