Feb 192012

To be honest I don’t pray to any gods – I don’t feel the need to speak to imaginary friends.

In a recent court case, an atheistic ex-councellor and the National Secular Society won a court ruling that a local council was wrong to put prayers on the official meetings agenda. Not because anyone’s human rights were being abused, but because the council was not empowered to do so under an interpretation of the old law governing local councils which explicitly prohibits that which is not explicitly permitted.

Given that this law is currently being revised to give far greater powers to local councils, the brouhaha that has exploded from the moral minority (I’m thinking of Eric Pickles) ever since is really rather uncalled for. This ruling (unless someone interferes) is a really rather temporary victory.

But without considering the legal position, it is time to consider whether it is really appropriate to have public prayers to begin a council meeting. One councillor interviewed about this situation said that her council brought back public praying as a way of bringing the council members together. Undoubtedly it works for those who believe in a certain god.

But what might be easily overlooked is that it is also a very good way of excluding those who don’t believe in that god – atheists or people with a different religion. Whilst this country has a christian past, there is no reason for going out of your way to making others feel uncomfortable. Even if the others are in a minority, or even especially because they are a minority.

After all praying out loud before a council meeting is totally unnecessary.

There is no trouble with having a minute of quiet contemplation where those who choose to do so can talk with their imaginary friends silently if they choose to do so.


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