The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the ruling of the High Court that the saying of prayers as part of a formal council meeting is not lawful under the Local Government Act 1972.
Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs commented, ‘The practice of saying Christian prayers in local councils and in other public bodies, like the Westminster Parliament, is archaic, divisive and inappropriate. There has been progress in some councils which have seen prayers abolished and in new institutions like the Scottish Parliament, which was founded without the same tradition of prayers. This judgement will considerably advance this progress, and all who want our public life to be inclusive and open will welcome it.
‘Religious councillors, like any others, may wish to reflect on their own beliefs as they confront the duties of public life, but enforcing sectional religious practices into what should be a neutral civic space is wrong. Participation in the democratic process is not limited to those of a particular belief, and official prayer sessions of any variety before council meetings are exclusive and should be abolished.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.
Today’s ruling came as a result of a judicial review which was triggered by the National Secular Society following the negative experience of prayers of a councillor in Bideford.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.