Eric Pickles defends the individual right to pray during council meeting agendas

Eric Pickles

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Eric PicklesCommunities Secretary, Eric Pickles has critiqued a High Court ruling today that praying while council meeting agendas is unlawful, explaining that the individual right to pray and worship is a “fundamental and hard-fought British liberty”.

High court ruling that tells councils have no statutory rights to hold prayers at meetings has faced a strong opposition by Mr. Pickles. He is of the view that the judgment passed was “surprising and disappointing” and he strongly felt that under the Localism Act, the councils should be permitted to worship.

Local authorities all across the country will have to assess and review their practice of holding prayers during formal meetings after the National Secular Society debated successfully against it.

Pickles has told: “While welcoming and respecting fellow British citizens who belong to other faiths, we are a Christian country, with an established church governed by the Queen. Christianity plays an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation. Public authorities – be it parliament or a parish council – should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish.”

While the council is thinking of appeal the ruling. The Executive Director of the National Secular Society, Keith Porteous Wood has stated that the acts of worship in council meetings are the key to the separation of religion from politics, so the judgment is pleasing  and sends a clear secular message.

Wood has further added, “We believe that council meetings should be conducted in a manner equally welcoming to all councilors, regardless of their religious beliefs, or indeed, lack of belief.”

“The NSS is not seeking to deprive those who wish to pray the opportunity to do so; indeed, we fight to retain freedom of religion and belief. The judgment clearly states that religious freedoms are not hindered, as councillors who wish to do so are free to say prayers before council meetings.”

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