Council prayers: £1,000 prize for councillor who sued

An atheist ex-councillor who sued Bideford Town Council for saying prayers at meetings has won a £1,000 prize from the National Secular Society (NSS).

Clive Bone was presented with an award for “special achievement” at a ceremony in London earlier this month, with Professor Richard Dawkins and Lord Avebury among the 160 guests.

Mr Bone’s case against Bideford Town Council was backed by the NSS.


However, after the High Court controversially ruled that local councils have no lawful power to hold prayers during meetings, the Government fast-tracked new legislation effectively overruling the decision.

The Government has since written to all local councils in England, telling them that new laws restore their power to hold prayers at official meetings if they want to.

But in the significant ruling, the High Court rejected the principal claims of the NSS that the saying of prayers during formal council meetings discriminates against, or breaches the human rights of, atheist councillors.


The secularist campaign to ban prayers at council meetings has only succeeded in strengthening the freedom of councils to pray if they want to.

A Government circular said all major local authorities in England can continue to hold prayers at formal meetings. For smaller councils, such as Bideford, this power is set to come into force before the end of this month.

The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund supported Bideford Town Council.

Related Resources