Secularists try to end free parking for churchgoers

Churchgoers in Woking could be forced to pay car parking charges to attend church on Sundays, following an intervention by a secularist pressure group.

Currently worshippers at three churches in Woking town centre are able to park free of charge at two public car parks on Sundays.

The National Secular Society has called for Woking Borough Council to end the concession, claiming that it “is almost certainly illegal under equality legislation”.


Ray Morgan, Chief Executive of Woking Borough Council, said: “They have made a challenge and say they think it is illegal, so we have sought formal legal advice on that matter.”

Mr Morgan added: “The council greatly values the whole faith community and the work they do, and it actively supports things like Woking People of Faith and people from faith backgrounds.

“It’s important that we do what’s right for Woking’s residents.”


Without the scheme attendees at Coign Church, Christ Church and Trinity Methodist Church would have faced parking charges of more than £55,000 over the past two and a half years.

Those attending insert tickets into a “validating device” at the churches which encodes the tickets so that they raise the exit barrier without the need for payment.

But Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “If Woking’s exemptions were to be replicated throughout the country, the subsidy would amount to tens of millions of pounds.


“We have advised the council that under the Equality Act these arrangements almost certainly amount to illegal discrimination. We await their response with interest.”

The parking scheme will continue pending legal advice, and will be raised at a meeting of the council’s executive committee next month where a decision on its future may be made.


The National Secular Society is currently suing Bideford Town Council for saying prayers at the start of its council meetings.

The council is said to have had prayers at its meetings since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.