NSS welcomes council decision to replace prayers at meetings
Posted: Fri, 28th Jul 2023
The National Secular Society has welcomed a council's decision to replace prayers at meetings with a 'moment of contemplation'.
Chair of Newark and Sherwood District Council Cllr Celia Brooks told a full council meeting on July 18th (pictured) that the council is a "new, progressive model" and councillors "will now be asked to spend a moment before the full council meetings in contemplation of the business of the meeting, or other matters from the wider community which may impact on our residents".
She added: "It is felt that this being a replacement for pre-meeting prayers demonstrates the way in which the council wishes to work to be inclusive of, and truly representative of, all our communities".
She then asked for councillors to stand and offer silent "thoughts or prayers" for those affected by the recent murders in Nottingham.
Conservative councillor Rhonda Holloway, who opposed the change, said she read the "usual prayer" before heading to the civic suite for the full council meeting.
The decision to replace the prayers comes after the Conservative Party lost their majority after the May local elections.
Several local authorities in England begin their meetings with prayer as part of their official business, although others recognise that the practice is inappropriate. Last year, Isle of Wight Council and Congleton Town Council decided to end prayers opening meetings.
The NSS campaigns for inclusive local democracy and opposes the imposition of acts of worship in council meetings.
Welcoming Newark and Sherwood District Council's decision, NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "This is an excellent move by the council, which will make meetings far more inclusive of residents of all faiths and beliefs.
"Everyone can participate equally in a moment of reflection – and, as we're already seeing, councillors who do wish to pray can still do so before they enter the meeting.
"We encourage all other local councils to follow Newark and Sherwood District Council's progressive example."
What the NSS stands for
The Secular Charter outlines 10 principles that guide us as we campaign for a secular democracy which safeguards all citizens' rights to freedom of and from religion.