David Cameron has refused to criticise parents that lie about their religious faith to get their children into the best state schools.
Instead he appeared to suggest that parents who attend church in the hope that their child will be selected to a prestigious faith school are examples of "active citizens".
In an interview with the Times, the Tory leader said he would not join in the criticisms of "middle-class parents with sharp elbows".
The trend for parents, especially in cities, to "discover" their religious faith when their child is a toddler has been well-documented.
Some Labour MPs are so concerned faith school admissions are open to middle-class manipulation they have called for a moratorium on new faith schools.
But Mr Cameron said: "I think it's good for parents who want the best for their kids. I don't blame anyone who tries to get their children into a good school.
"Most people are doing so because it has an ethos and culture. I believe in active citizens."
The Tory leader reportedly wants his daughter to attend a high-performing state-funded Church of England school in Kensington, London.
Last year Mr Cameron's regular church attendance was noted, although his aides stressed he was motivated by genuine faith.
In the interview in today's Times, Mr Cameron attacked the prime minister, describing Gordon Brown as "that strange man in Downing Street".
Mr Cameron accused him of putting Labour's interests ahead of the country's, adding he had failed to prepare Britain for economic downturn.
The Tory leader claimed his party were now seen as the government in waiting, bolstered by meetings with world leaders and the World Economic Forum.
In his first newspaper interview of 2008, Mr Cameron said: "I am full of bounce-back after the Christmas holidays, full of energy and really keen to get on with the job, but I think we have made some real progress.
"What I am excited about after two years of modernisation of the Tory party is that we have the right to put forward some radical and exciting policies and we are really being listened to.
"We are setting the agenda on welfare reform, choice in education, personalised healthcare."
Mr Cameron predicted this year would see Boris Johnson elected as mayor of London. He risked staking his reputation on the line by promising to campaign alongside the Tory MP.