THE Archbishop of Canterbury today warned politicians not to interfere with the right to wear visible symbols of religion.
Dr Rowan Williams said an outwardly secular society would be "politically dangerous".
His intervention follows the row sparked by Commons Leader Jack Straw's disclosure that he asks Muslim women to remove the veil at constituency surgeries.
Tony Blair has since warned that the veil is a "mark of separation", but Muslim groups have complained that their community is being stigmatised.
Writing in The Times today, Dr Williams writes: "The ideal of a society where no visible public signs of religion would be seen - no crosses around necks, no sidelocks, turbans or veils - is a politically dangerous one.
"It assumes that what comes first in society is the central political 'licensing authority', which has all the resource it needs to create a workable public morality."
Until now, he continues, it has been taken for granted that the state is "not the source of morality and legitimacy" but a mediator between the country's different communities.