Prayers could be banned from meetings at Cardiff Council after a ruling by the High Court that the practice is “unlawful”.
A senior councillor has now called for the council to operate “with the spirit of the legal decision” by removing pre-council prayer sessions.
Traditionally, prayers are said by a chaplain before the monthly meetings of the full council at City Hall or County Hall. But Trowbridge’s Labour councillor Ralph Cook said religion and politics “shouldn’t mix” and as an atheist, he shouldn’t be subjected to prayer.
Party whips will meet with the authority’s chief legal services officer to come to a resolution, with one proposal being to hold prayers before the meetings start. Councillors of varying religions, however, have suggested prayers be said in different faiths to better represent the diversity of Cardiff.
Last week, the National Secular Society and an atheist former councillor won a High Court test case which found that Bideford council in Devon was acting unlawfully by putting prayers on meeting agendas.
Councillor Cook said members of any denomination who wished to worship before a council meeting should be able to do so in a separate room before meetings.
“I am generally uncomfortable where religious prayers are being uttered and that is for all faiths. I don’t like it and I don’t believe in it,” he said.
“I don’t think religion and politics should mix.”
Ely’s Labour councillor Russell Goodway, who is a practising Christian, cancelled pre-council prayers in 2004 after a request from the then opposition Liberal-Democrat group. He said he was surprised when the Lib-Dems, who now run the council with Plaid Cymru, subsequently reinstated prayers, adding: “I think we should come to a gentleman’s agreement to discontinue it. I don’t come to council for my religion, I go to church for that.”
Riverside councillor Mohammed Islam, a Muslim, and Canton councillor Ramesh Patel, who was raised Hindu, both said they would like prayers of different faiths spoken at full council each month.
Coun Islam said: “I would like to see a fuller diversity.” Coun Patel added: “It sends the right message that the council is showing respect to all religions.”