Ruling could herald end to Cardiff Council prayer sessions

February 16, 2012 3 Comments »
Trowbridge councillor Ralph Cook, of Labour, wants to see an end to pre-council prayers.

Trowbridge councillor Ralph Cook, of Labour, wants to see an end to pre-council prayers.

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.”

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3 Comments

  1. secularwales February 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Why not compromise by having a short period of silent contemplation instead. This was offered to Bideford council by former councilor Clive Bone who took them to court, but they refused to compromise. It seems a reasonable proposal to me.

  2. Julian Bennett February 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    At Cardiff University they initially had a prayer room set up for students to use but that was seen to be discriminatory against non-religious students who wanted to use the space for contemplation or meditation. A compromise was reached where the prayer room became the quiet room making this encompassing to both religious and non-religious students. The local council could follow in this direction and have a quiet period like secular wales suggests above.

    Coun Islam and Patel's suggestion of having different prayers for different faiths and maybe then a quiet period of reflection would be so time consuming that it would be impractical. If the religious councilors are not mature enough to compromise in sensible ways that do not increase the amount of time spent on this activity which is not integral to their job roles then they should drop the practice altogether. After all there is no reason why we should be paying councilors to engaged in prolonged acts of religious worship.

  3. Deb Durham February 23, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Religion and politics should not be mixed. As atheists and agnostics, it is time we voiced our views on this, saying nothing ,is to me ,akin to being male and standing by whilst other males make sexist jokes or ignoring racism because we don't want to rock the boat or just seek an easy life. Some of us ARE offended by the supposition that not only God exists but that we believe that. I don't , please keep your beliefs and practices to yourselves.

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