NSS responds to attack on secularism in Parliament

During Questions in the House of Commons on 8 December 2011, the MP for Cleethorpes, Martin Vickers, made the following intervention:

“Just as religious fundamentalism can be damaging to social cohesion, so can anti-religious fundamentalism as exhibited by the National Secular Society in its attempt to stop prayers before council meetings. Will the Leader of the House find time for a Government statement to ensure that councils remain free to have prayers where they so wish?”

Sir George Young responded:

“I strongly believe in local democracy, and I think that the decision to which my hon. Friend refers—on how to conduct council meetings and whether there should be a prayer before them—is very much one that should be taken by local councils. I hope that they will follow the example of this House, which has a short moment of prayer before we re-engage in normal hostilities.”

In response to the comments of Mr Vickers the National Secular Society issued the following statement:

“All the NSS has done is ask the court whether prayers during council meetings are lawful. It is fundamentalist to object to anyone accessing the law. We have suggested compromise alternatives of a period silence or prayers being held before Council meetings, for those that wish them, but predictably, Christian councillors are determined to inflict prayer on others.

“We trust Mr Vickers is going to educate himself about the meaning of secularism – equality for all regardless of their religion or lack of it - before he jumps on this passing band wagon. And we hope Mr Vickers is as keen on prayers of other religions as he is on Christian ones. We know of a Christian councillor walking out of Muslim prayers being said in Portsmouth council. Having no prayers avoids such tensions.

“It is unfortunate that Sir George Young has felt it appropriate to comment on this when the matter is currently before the courts"

Read the NSS briefing on Council Prayers: Council Prayers Campaign Briefing