Most council meetings in Wales have Christian prayers

The majority of councils in Wales say Christian prayers before meeting, according to the BBC.

The Corporation reports that 13 councils hold Christian prayers before the beginning of a meeting, meaning it is not classified as an agenda item. Denbighshire council holds formal prayers at the start of full council meetings.

In 2012, The Christian Institute’s Legal Defence Fund defended Bideford Town Council in Devon over its practice of praying at the start of council meetings.

‘Hugely beneficial’

Secularist campaigners have called for the practice to be dropped, with The National Secular Society (NSS) claiming that councils “shouldn’t be clubs for Christians”.

But the Church in Wales believes that holding prayers at council meetings “could be hugely beneficial”. Its spokesperson added: “Those of us with a faith may give thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and ask for God’s guidance on our decisions.”

Vale of Galmorgan Council reintroduced prayers at the request of a new mayor after their predecessor had humanist blessings.

The Welsh Local Government Association said individual councils could use their own discretion when deciding on council prayers.

‘Hold prayers’

In the case of Bideford Town Council, the NSS and a local atheist ex-councillor took legal action and claimed that the prayers were discriminatory against atheist councillors, were a breach of human rights laws, and that the council had no lawful authority to hold prayers as part of its formal meetings.

The High Court ruled that local councils have no lawful power to hold prayers during official business.

But the Institute’s in-house solicitor Sam Webster, said the case was won on “a narrow, technical point, which related to whether councils have the legal power to hold prayers”.

Within days of the court’s decision, the Government fast-tracked the commencement of new laws that overtook the court’s ruling and restored councils’ right to hold prayers in England.

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