Gloucestershire County Council has removed all references to God in its council ‘prayer’, after just three councillors objected.
The council leader claims the form of words, which still ends with “Amen”, “does the trick without being related to God”.
Earlier this year the Government wrote to all local councils in England, telling them that new laws restore their power to hold prayers at official meetings if they choose to.
Gloucestershire’s ‘Godless prayer’ was introduced at the 63-strong council after one Green councillor and two Liberal Democrats chose not to stand during the Christian prayer.
Conservative councillor Brian Thornton, who currently leads the council and introduced the change, said: “The majority now seem happy with it, even if there is a group of around eight or nine who regret it and feel strongly that the proper prayer should be maintained.
“In this case, I don’t have to act in a democratic manner. I am a dictator in the way I control how the meeting is conducted.”
The new prayer says: “May we find the wisdom to carry out our duties, the humanity to listen to all, the courage to do what is right and the generosity to treat each other with respect. Amen”.
Councillor Thornton is set to stand down as leader of the council later this month, and has said the new leader has “every right and opportunity to go back to having the full prayer if they wish”.
The Sunday Telegraph, which reported the controversial Gloucestershire ‘prayer’, found that 40 councils had recently decided to drop, or “water down” the practice of saying prayers.
However in his letter to local councils Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government, said Britain is “not strengthened by the secularisation of civil life”.
In February this year the High Court ruled that local councils had no lawful power to hold prayers during official business.
But within days of the court’s decision Mr Pickles fast-tracked the commencement of new laws that overtook the court’s ruling and restored councils’ right to hold prayers.