Bishops defend council prayers

by
26 March 2008

by Ed Beavan

THE Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, and his RC counterpart, the RC Bishop of Plymouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Budd, have written to every local authority in Devon to defend prayers at council meetings

The move follows a warning from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) to Bideford Town Council, which said that such prayers risked infringing people’s rights to practise any religion, and could breach human rights.

The letter, which described the warning as “extraordinary”, argues that prayers at the beginning of a council meeting are “a public act which reflects the self-understanding of the English nation, and of its governance as being by ‘the Queen in Parliament under God’”. Those belong to other faiths could choose not to say “Amen”, or absent themselves from the council chamber.

The Rector of Bideford, the Ven. Michael Edson, is one of several clergy who regularly lead prayers before council meetings. “It’s important to remember the council has voted itself to retain the prayers,” he said.

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