Controversial plans for privately- funded schools across the Midlands are driven by religious "extremism" at the heart of Government, a Labour MP has claimed.
Ken Purchase (Lab Wolverhampton North East) criticised city academies, the Government's flagship education policy, as Tony Blair made a keynote speech announcing a massive expansion of the programme.
The schools can raise up to £2 million from private sponsors, including religious organisations, which also have a say in the curriculum, staffing, and ethos.
Academies sponsored by evangelical organisations are planned in Solihull, Coventry and Sandwell.
Speaking toThe Birmingham Post, Mr Purchase highlighted the involvement of Education Secretary Ruth Kelly with the Catholic movement Opus Dei.
He said: "She is a member of a secret religious sect, and that, I believe, is reflected in the way education is being organised."
It followed criticism from former Education Secretary Estelle Morris, who said the academies could be a "distraction" from the task of raising standards.
The Labour peer and former MP for Yardley in Birmingham, said middle-class children were more likely to benefit from the new schools than those in deprived areas where standards were lowest.
But in a speech yesterday, Mr Blair shrugged off the criticisms, insisting academies were driven by "parent power".
Academies have been around since 2002, but only 17 are up and running.
Now the Government is to speed the programme and 200 academies will be operating or in the pipeline within five years.
Evangelical businessman Bob Edmiston, chairman and chief executive of IM Group Limited, is sponsoring the Grace Academy, in Solihull, which already has Government backing.
He has also announced plans to build a second Christian-based academy in Coventry, while West Bromwich businessman Eric Payne is to sponsor an academy, based on Christian principles, in Sandwell.
Mr Purchase said: "The whole concept of academies is flawed.
"For example, the idea that anyone with £2 million to spend can influence the curriculum of a school makes no sense. I have no idea why people should be allowed to grind their own axes in schools.
"The Prime Minister's religion is guiding him, rather than his politics.
"I would remind him he was elected as a Labour Prime Minister, not a Christian.
"We also have a problem with the Secretary of State for Education.
"She, in most people's definition, would be classed as a religious extremist."
Mr Blair, speaking in a London school, said city academies would give parents of all incomes the chance to send their child to a "genuinely independent" school, without fees. He highlighted Walsall Academy, which opened two years ago and has no religious links, saying it had achieved "particularly good results".
He said: "What really makes academies different is their ethos, their sense of purpose, the strength of their leaders, teachers and support staff, the motivation of their parents and leaders."
Mrs Kelly has attended meetings of Opus Dei but has not confirmed or denied reports she is a member.