Prayer ban to be overturned ‘within a week’

Government minister, Eric Pickles, has vowed to overturn a judge’s ban on formal council prayers – within a week if possible.

The backlash follows a “ludicrous” case brought by the National Secular Society against a small Devonshire town council.

The case led a judge to rule that local councils have no lawful power to say prayer as part of their formal meetings.


But Eric Pickles, who is the Minister in charge of local government, said he will fast-track the commencement of a new law that will restore the right of councils to say prayers at official meetings, if they so wish.

The new law – the Localism Act – has already been passed by Parliament, but section 1 of the Act is yet to be brought into force. Mr Pickles hopes to do this by the end of the week.

If he can’t do it that quickly, he says the new law will be in place by the end of the month.


It will be a blow to the National Secular Society, who had said the judge’s ruling was good news for everyone who wanted a secular society.

But Mr Pickles’ swift response was welcomed by The Christian Institute. Spokesman Mike Judge said: “Mr Pickles’ actions have reflected what most people have been saying.

“If a council votes in favour of holding prayers at its meetings, and as long as no one is forced to take part, let them get on with it.


Mike Judge added: “Politicians at all levels of government – and our judges too – could do with a bit of prayer.”

On Friday Mr Pickles told BBC Five Live: “This change was due to be in by the beginning of April, but I’ve talked to officials and I hope to have the law changed by the end of the month, and it’s my aim to actually change it by this time next week.

“It will mean that they will be able to continue, as councils have for decades if not centuries, been able to have a prayer before the start of their meeting and for it to be part of the agenda.”

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