The BBC Trust has dismissed claims a Thought for the Day slot broadcast last year about council prayers was biased.
The slot, written and presented by Lord Singh, referred to a High Court ruling from a few days earlier which declared it illegal to say prayers as a formal part of local council meetings.
The National Secular Society accused the BBC of bias broadcasting but the BBC Trust said the BBC satisfied impartiality requirements by broadcasting a wide range of significant views across its many outlets.
The Trust cited extensive discussion with Richard Dawkins and an interview with the Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi during the Today Programme, which Thought for the Day is part of.
The BBC Trust defended Lord Singh’s slot and said, “the brief for TFTD is to reflect on a topical story or issue from the perspective of religious faith.
“That is exactly what he was doing. He drew on his experience of being a Sikh to reach a conclusion that was meant to be inclusive to anyone, secular or religious. He was not lobbying on the specific ruling: he was reflecting on something that had already happened. This is completely in line with the TFTD brief.”
In 2012 MPs criticised the High Court ruling against council prayers as “utterly preposterous”.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, disputed the basis of the ruling and said that the “right to worship is a fundamental and hard fought British liberty”.
Mr Pickles fast-tracked new laws to give local councils the powers to hold prayers if they wanted to.
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda, branded the ruling as “utterly preposterous”, and said that he would “consider” tabling a bill to oppose the ruling himself.
Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “If you don’t like prayers at council meetings don’t go to them – simples. But don’t spoil it for the majority who do appreciate it”.