The General Election result has produced two interesting outcomes.
The Conservative Party is now the government of the United Kingdom and its efforts to make the UK a “Christian Country” will, no doubt, be advanced with gusto. We can expect more educational religious apartheid in state funded schools in England. Fortunately on this matter Wales is independent and the Labour Government in Wales will, we trust, continue to invest in community schools. A second matter does affect Wales. The former Minister for Local Government Mr. Eric Pickles MP in the last days of the previous government pushed through the Westminster Parliament measures to frustrate the Supreme Court decision that taking up Local Government time with prayers in council meetings was illegal. It is now necessary for councillors (who believe this practice to be an unnecessary waste of time or even deliberately intended to make membership of Councils unappealing to non-Christians) to challenge it council by council. This has already been done successfully in an English town. Mr. Pickles MP was not given a Cabinet job in the new Tory government but I fear we may not have heard the last of this devout Christian.
What are the arguments against “Council Prayers”?
Firstly, objection to this practice is only valid if such prayers are conducted during Council business, that is after the Chair opens the meeting, at which time all members should be present.
If councillors, who are not confident about dealing with council business before having personal communication with the creator of the universe, wish to pray they should be free to do this in a private room before the meeting is opened by the Chair.
Why do secularists object to prayers during meetings. I think there are three issues.
Councillors are paid (an attendance allowance) to conduct business on behalf of all the citizens of their Council area. If they spend time praying during Council meetings they are being paid to pray by council tax payers.
Those who do not wish to pray are having their time wasted by this ceremony.
Secularist believe that this tradition of praying is inappropriate in a society where a minority of people attend a Christian Church and suspect that it is defended by Christian Councillors as a kind of “territory marking” ceremony.
I hope that all councillors who object to “prayers” have the courage to make their opposition clear.
More than 200 years ago Thomas Paine (who was a Deist) had this to say about prayer.
From Thomas Paine’s response to Samuel Adams (Revolutionary American politician)
We cannot serve the Deity in the manner we serve those who cannot do without that service. He needs no service from us. We can add nothing to eternity. But it is in our power to render a service acceptable to him, and that not by praying, but by endeavouring to make his creatures happier. A man does not serve God when he prays, for it is himself he is trying to serve; and as to hiring or paying men to pray, as if the Deity needed instruction, it is, in my opinion, an abomination. One good schoolmaster is of more use and of more value than a load of such persons….
Alan Rogers 23rd May 2015
We think local government meetings should be conducted in a manner equally welcoming to all attendees, regardless of their individual religious beliefs or lack of belief. We therefore argue that religious worship should play no part in the formal business of council meetings. . .read more.