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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Gloucester County Council ditches prayers

The Chairman of Gloucester County Council has ended the practice of saying prayers before council meetings. Conservative Councillor Brian Thornton said he believes the historic practice “excludes" some members from full participation.

“This is not a religious setting, it is a council one. As such, I have decided I do not wish to cause exclusion in any way, so we will do without the prayers." - Brian Thornton, Chair, of Gloucester County Council

He told a meeting at Shire Hall on Wednesday: “This is not a religious setting, it is a council one. As such, I have decided I do not wish to cause exclusion in any way, so we will do without the prayers."

He added that some politicians might feel “embarrassed" about taking part.

The authority is believed to have first started the ‘moment of prayer' when local government was re-organised in 1974, although some people think it was around, in a similar form, many years earlier.

Some believe prayers have been in place since the turn of the 20th century in various forms.

It was stopped in 1999 by former Labour group leader Maureen Rutter, only to be re-instated just one year later following an outcry from religious interests.

Coun Tracey (Con, Westgate) was furious, calling the decision disgusting and commented: “I wonder what the Queen Mother would think of this.”

Rev Bill O‘Leary, the pastor at Tewkesbury Baptist Church, said the council‘s move was “a sad thing" and should have been subject to a council vote.

Also see

NSS Challenge to Council prayers reaches the High Court

Published Fri, 02 Dec 2011