Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Secularism under attack

The High Court ruled on Friday the saying of prayers as a formal part of a council meeting was unlawful, following a case brought by the National Secular Society and an atheist town councillor from Bideford, Devon.

On Friday, Mr Justice Ouseley said: "The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a council is not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue."

The ruling went on to state prayers could be said in a council chamber before a formal meeting as long as councillors were not required to attend.

But church leaders said it amounted to a victory for an “aggressive secularist agenda” intent on banishing religion from public life.

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has lawyers preparing to issue emergency legal guidance to councils, effectively urging them to ignore the ruling.

MPs and peers will not be prevented from praying at the start of parliamentary proceedings, Downing Street has confirmed. A source at Number 10 said the prime minister "thinks that the prayer sessions are very important and that we should keep them".

Cllr Imran Khan a Tory member of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council in Surrey, said: “Religion has no place in politics. This High Court judgment is a victory for everyone who believes that democracy and religious freedom is the cornerstone of western free society.”

In a speech to be given during a visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi, chairman of the Conservative Party, will once again criticise 'militant secularisation' as 'intolerant' and 'illiberal' and call for Christianity and 'Christian values' to be reaffirmed in Europe (she's a Muslim although she has been pelted with eggs for not being Islamic enough).

Here on the Island prayers are traditionally said before every full council meeting. Prayers appear on Isle of Wight Council full meeting agendas but before the numbered items of business.

Council leader Cllr David Pugh said: "It remains our view that our prayers precede full council meetings and are not part of the formal agenda.

"We will, however, be reviewing our procedure with a view to ensuring prayers can continue to take place before the formal meeting commences."

See  http://secularbuddhism.co.uk/

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