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Free parking is unfair, secularists argue

07 June 2013

INS

THE National Secular Society (NSS) is mounting a legal challenge against the free parking on Sunday mornings offered to churchgoers by Woking Borough Council.

The NSS received a letter from the council, dated 26 April, in response to a Freedom of Information request. It confirmed that worshippers at several churches in Woking, including Christ Church, a C of E church, were able to park free of charge in a particular car park "via a discount device".

The loss to the council amounted to £53,370 over the previous 12 months, it said.

The NSS said that it had received complaints about the parking policy from non-religious residents in Woking, who had to pay for parking on Sunday mornings. It quoted one resident, Aidan Griffin, saying: "As someone who doesn't attend church, I should not be treated any less favourably than anyone else parking their car in Woking town centre on a Sunday morning. As a taxpayer, I'm also concerned about the loss of revenue to the Council arising from this policy."

The executive director of the NSS, Keith Porteous Wood, said: "We have launched this challenge to preferential treatment of worshippers because it is neither legitimate nor lawful for local government to subsidise the activities of any particular religion and belief group.

"It would be fairer if the council either charged worshippers for parking, as they do everyone else, or provided free parking for all."

The research director of Theos, Nick Spencer, wrote a blog this week: So much evil in the world: parking and the National Secular Society.

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