Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

High Court Council Prayers Ruling ‘An Attack On Centuries-Old Christian Traditions’
Bishops and MPs last night attacked a landmark ruling banning local councils from saying prayers during meetings as an assault on Britain’s Christian heritage.
By John Bingham
02/11/2012 UK (The Telegraph)-A High Court Judge ruled that there was no “lawful” place for prayer during formal proceedings after an atheist parish councillor objected that the tradition excluded non-believers.
Secular campaigners insisted the case had only “modest” implications and would not interfere with anyone’s freedom of religion.
But church leaders said it amounted to a victory for an “aggressive secularist agenda” intent on banishing religion from public life.
There were also fears that the ruling could throw local preparations to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee into doubt by opening the door to legal challenges from opponents of the monarchy.
Practices such as singing the national anthem could also come under threat, it was claimed.
It followed a legal challenge by Clive Bone, a former member of Bideford Town Council in Devon, who objected to the tradition on grounds of conscience, supported by the National Secular Society.
Yesterday, at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Ouseley, ruled that it did not breach Mr Bone’s human rights or amount to discrimination.
But he nevertheless concluded that it was “not lawful” to say prayers as part of formal meetings under a clause of the Local Government Act 1972.
He issued a formal legal declaration stating that councils had “no power” to include prayers in meetings – although they could be held in council chambers before the formal proceedings get under way.
Simon Calvert, a director of the Christian institute, which supported the council’s case, said: “We are talking about something that has gone on for centuries in a constitutionally Christian country … this outlaws it at a stroke and it seems to be another example of the courts siding with an aggressive secularist agenda.”

“We are a Christian country, with an established Church in England, governed by the Queen,” he said.
“Public authorities – be it Parliament or a parish council – should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish.”
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said prayer was “central the public life of the country”.
“There is a huge constitutional implication to this,” he said.
“Where will this stop – by a test case about prayer in Parliament?
“Prayers in Parliament are definitely part of the proceedings, they are recorded as such, they are on the order paper and part therefore of the constitutional arrangement of the country as the Queen in Parliament under God.”
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, the Islamic group, said the judgment was an “attack on all faith”.
“We are a religious country, a majority Christian country,” he said.
“As people of faith – whether we take inspiration from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or whatever – we should take pride in that and be able to say prayers, I think this judgment is a step back, it is an attack against freedom.”
Mr Bone, a retired engineer, from Bideford said he was “delighted” by the ruling.
“I think this will stop sending out the wrong message – that local government is for a certain type of person,” he said.
“I totally agree with Eric Pickles when he says that there should be freedom of religion but it is not a licence to impose it on others in inappropriate situations.”
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “This is an important step in recognition of secularism in public life so that everybody whatever their religion or lack of it feels equally welcome and treated with equal respect.”
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.”
The council was granted leave to appeal but last night it emerged that both sides were considering appeals – on different aspects of the ruling.
The judgment came a day after a series of leading clerics called on the Church of England General Synod to “resist” moves to exclude chaplains from NHS hospitals.

[Go to the Full Story]