Saying prayers as a Council: a reflection of British heritage & being in touch with one’s Spirituality, or a breach of Human Rights?

It was only yesterday that I posted on the various talk about secularism in the UK. And today, the saga continues. You may remember Bideford Town Council, who have been in the news a couple of times for publicly praying together before commencing council meetings. Well, because of one offended atheist who was a councillor (Clive Bone, who is pictured above), the council ended up having to cease praying before meetings.

The legal case rested on three arguments: that the prayers were discriminatory against atheist councillors, the prayers were a breach of human rights laws, and that the council had no lawful authority to hold prayers as part of its formal meetings.

The judge rejected the first two arguments, but ruled: “The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a Council is not lawful under s111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue.”

The Act does allow councils to do anything that “facilitates, or is conducive or is incidental” to a council’s functions, but Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the saying of prayers at formal meetings does not fall within that provision.

Well, after the episode, outrage broke out. Even the head of the Equality Commission, Trevor Phillips (who I’ll say more about later), thought the case against the saying of prayers before council meetings “nonsense on stilts”.

Then, Chris Bryant, a Labour MP spoke out against the court case.

Agreeing with Christ Bryant, other MPs spoke out against the ruling.

Then, Eric Pickles, a Government Minister spoke out against the ruling and told councils to carry on praying despite the ruling.

And the latest news is that the council have voted to appeal against the ruling.

Not only that, but Eric Pickles is now going to do everything in his power to encourage praying in council meetings.

What’s interesting about the vote is that 11 out of 16 councillors voted in favour of the appeal. Now that’s astonishing.

Whilst these militant secularists are whining and complaining about human rights and supposed discrimination about one man who doesn’t like to pray (or even sit quietly, perhaps) everyone else is standing by the fact that Christianity plays an important role in the lives of Britons, whether they follow the faith or not. I doubt all the 11 who voted for the appeal are practising Christians, but nonetheless they see the value of prayer and reflection before making decisions within the council. Now that says a lot.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whilst defending the saying of Christian prayers at a council meeting on one hand is now saying that Christians aren’t above the law, and that expecting the law to make exception for them is like the Muslims asking for sharia law! I just don’t get Trevor Phillips. But that’s another story.

Even if we take his current stance, then I wonder when he will tell the humanists, the secularists and the militant new atheists that they aren’t above the law either, and that they must accept the fact that we are living in a country which highly regards our Christian heritage and the church?

The scales just aren’t balanced. And what’s even more telling is that the majority of people are fine with a council saying prayers at a meeting. Obviously, the council themselves are, with the majority so happy with saying prayers that they see it important to appeal against a ruling preventing them from praying!

Yet the smallest group seem to have the loudest voice. The country needs to wake up. The Church needs to stand up and be counted; countless people who aren’t even Christians are standing up for Christianity and the Church, yet many Christians are sitting back and letting them do the hard work. It should not be so.

What’s your view on the situation? Answer the Poll below, and feel free to add any additional comments or responses below.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @

  • I find that once again I am hoping and wishing that people would put as much energy and passion into finding ways to end human trafficking and other forms of slavery as they seem to put into stopping prayers from being prayed or the 10 commandments and nativities being displayed publicly.  Everyone wants the rest of the world to be tolerant of their behavior and opinion but no one thinks they should be tolerant of Christians.  This gentleman (Clive) can just leave the room for the prayer.  Why is he going for his 15 minutes of fame over a council prayer?  People.  They’re worse than anybody.