Banning of prayers at council meetings ‘a sad reflection on this modern day and age’

PRAYERS made at the start of council meetings were this week ruled illegal a move a senior Royston councillor has labelled “a sad reflection on this modern day and age”.

Royston Town Council traditionally says prayers at the start of a full council meeting, but this could come to an end after a High Court ruling.

Councillor Robert Smith, leader of the town council, said: “I’m very disappointed that it has come to a High Court ruling not to allow them.

“We’re taking advice on how to deal with the situation but I’m aware that some members of the council are uneasy about holding prayers.

“It’s a sad reflection on this modern day and age that we can’t hold such things that have been a tradition for many years. “This is supposed to be a Christian country, if people don’t want to partake they can sit outside and join afterwards, it seems a very heavy handed way of making this protest.”

The action was brought against Bideford Town Council by the Secular Society and was won on a technicality of local government legislation.

Justice Ousley ruled authorities could not put prayers on agendas or to summon members to an act of worship.

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However he added the prayers could take place before a formal meeting, as long as members are not summoned to attend.

A decision which has angered the leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Cllr Nick Clarke, said: “This is nonsense, especially when councils have much more vitally important challenges to consider.

“We are concentrating on delivering what is best for Cambridgeshire in a practical and common sense way.”

He also added Shire Hall invites representatives of many faiths for pre-meeting reflection - including humanists.

North Herts District Council has not held a prayer since its formation in 1974 and South Cambs District Council prefer a minute of reflection before meetings.