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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Cheddar Parish Council vote to continue praying

Posted: Thu, 02 Feb 2012 13:16

Cheddar Parish Council vote to continue praying

A row has erupted at Cheddar parish council in Somerset over prayers at council meetings.

Cheddar parish councillor Peter Gawthorpe wants the saying of prayers moved to ten minutes before official council business. But the council has voted to say prayers immediately before council business begins, although not as part of the official agenda.

Councillor Gawthorpe says having prayers during a meeting is 'unlawful and inappropriate'. He told the local Mercury newspaper: "Summons to prayer may happen in a theocracy but we live in a democracy, a system for everyone, irrespective of creed, gender or politics. We should guard this jealously, it is our heritage. I don't mind people having the prayer, but it should not be part of the meeting, it should be ten minutes before."

He said the praying could stop potential new members of council putting themselves forward.

Despite the council removing prayers from the official agenda, councillor Gawthorpe said this was still unfair to those not wishing to participate. "Some maintain that the prayer should be kept as a tradition from 1895 when the council began. If we maintain traditions from that era then we would not allow women the vote and child labour would still be acceptable. The world has changed and we need to recognise that."

Cllr Andrew Bosley said: "This is tosh. What does it matter? Is this all the council has to do with its time?"

Cllr Nigel Taylor also attacked the proposal. He said: "Are we going to scrap Christmas next because it is religious? It is political correctness gone mad."

Councillors voted against the proposal to move the prayer, which will continue to be held just before the meeting begins.

The National Secular Society's legal challenge to prayers during council meetings was recently heard at the High Court and a judgement is expected shortly.

Tags: Council Prayers