The church cannot be expected to cooperate with the government if gay equality laws are passed, a clergyman touted as the next leader of the English Roman Catholic Church has claimed.

Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols, seen as the man to takeover from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, used a sermon over the weekend to attack the incoming sexual orientation regulations, accusing the government of ‘imposing conditions’ on the church.

The new laws, expected in April 2007, guarantee equality in goods and services for the LGBT community, but Archbishop Nichols claims that the legislation will contradict the faith’s ‘moral values.’

He told a Mass at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham on Sunday, “What government must realise is that it is not possible to seek cooperation with us while they are at the same time trying to impose upon us conditions which contradict our moral values.”

He claimed that society is entering a “post secular phase.”

“It is simply unacceptable to suggest that the resources of the faith communities, whether in schools, adoption agencies, welfare programmes, halls and shelters can work in cooperation with public authorities only if the faith communities accept not simply a legal framework but also the moral standards at present being touted by government

The law is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland earlier in the New Year. Those found guilty of discrimination will be liable for fines between £500 and £1000.