Thirteen out of 18 councils in Wales hold Christian prayers before the formal start of a meeting despite a campaign to ban them, The Christian Institute reports.
The National Secular Society (NSS) has called for the removal of saying prayers at council meetings, saying councils “shouldn’t be clubs for Christians.” The group claimed that worship shouldn’t have any part in the affairs of the local government.
The Church in Wales defended the practice, explaining that prayers during council meetings “could be hugely beneficial.” Its spokesperson explained that holding opening prayers allows members to thank God for the opportunity to help their constituents and to ask for His favor when making decisions.
The spokesperson added that, “Those without a faith may appreciate a moment of quiet to reflect on the task ahead and remind us of our common purpose.”
There is an act in England allowing councils to include prayers during their meetings. According to the act, council meetings “may include time for prayers or other religious observance, or observance connected with a religious or philosophical belief.”
Previously, the NSS and an atheist former councilor filed a case against the Bideford Town Council for holding prayers. They argued that the prayers were discriminatory against members who are atheists. Also, they claimed that worship was a breach of human rights laws and the council has no right to impose prayers during the meetings.
The High Court ruled in favor of NSS and the council scrapped its opening prayers. Within days, however, the government imposed new laws which allowed the Bideford Town Council to re-introduce prayers.
Christianorguk. (2017). The Christian Institute. http://www.christian.org.uk/news/council-meetings-wales-christian-prayers/
Premier. (2017). Premier Christian Radio. https://www.premierchristianradio.com/News/UK/Christian-prayers-start-most-Welsh-council-meetings