This story is in many ways a strange one to this blogger. Bideford Town Council, in Devon, has traditionally begun all its meeting with a prayer session. It has even been on the minutes, shown at the start of business.
This has been ongoing for years. It has now been judged as illegal by a High Court. A court case was brought by The National Secular Society (NSS). The court rejected its claims that, "the practice breached human rights rules over an individual's right to freedom of conscience and their right not to face discrimination". The court did however rule that the prayers were not lawful under Local Government Act 1972. THe NSS and the BHA, British Humanist Association welcomed the decision.
The ruling will impact on any official town council meetings held in England and Wales. Bideford it is believed is not alone. Not by a long chalk.
As expected the decision has caused a mixture of reactions. For the NSS a statement said, "Acts of worship in council meetings are key to the separation of religion from politics, so we're very pleased with the judgement, and the clear secular message it sends - particularly the statement made about the 1972 Act. "We believe that council meetings should be conducted in a manner equally welcoming to all councilors, regardless of their religious beliefs, or indeed, lack of belief."
Initially all of this seems a very small storm in a teacup. However there are reports of problems such prayers at council meetings have caused. Apparently when a Muslim Imam was allowed to say a prayer too, a council member stormed out in anger.
On the surface it may seem no problem but dig a little deeper and it is easy to see how this can be used, abused and make some people feel uncomfortable.
With that in mind I guess it is like a bunch of naughty children. Pray nicely or do not pray at all.