Britain is a "Christian nation" and militant atheists should "get over it", according to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
The Conservative MP, who in the past has accused Labour of "diminishing Christianity" by suggesting there was no place for religion in politics, oversaw a change in the law in 2012 that ensured English Parish councils could not be subject to legal challenges for including prayers in public meetings.
Speaking to delegates Conservative Spring Forum in London, Pickles said that atheists should not be able to push an agenda of "politically correct intolerance", adding: "I've stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish."
Pickles added: "Heaven forbid. We're a Christian nation. We have an Established Church. Get over it. And don't impose your politically correct intolerance on others."
The 61-year-old Yorkshireman also compared the English Defence League, militant Islam and the "the thuggish hard left", who he said are "all as bad as each other".