‘Ill resign if council bans prayers at meetings’

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A LEADING Princes Risborough councillor has threatened to resign if prayers are no longer said before meetings.

The comments follow a High Court ruling, which found that a council in Devon’s saying of prayers was unlawful.

Members of Princes Risborough Town Council observe the Christian practice before the start of each meeting, whilst one member abstains and leaves the circle whilst the prayers are said.

Town councillor Alan Turner said: “I have always made it clear if we were prevented from saying prayers I would resign. As far as I am concerned, it is part of our democratic right. If we wish to say prayers we should be allowed to. They are even said in Parliament.

“We don’t list the prayers on our meeting agenda. We have them after the 10-minute session and before the meeting officially starts.

“Under the new ruling I believe it relates to where the prayers are actually listed as part of the agenda.” Mayor Eunice Clifford said: “I am 100 percent for it. I would not consider banning that prayer whilst I am chairman. It is utterly ridiculous.”

Councillor Reg Orsler, who currently leaves the circle when prayers are read, said: “I just think it was quite interesting actually.

“It seems that it is not a statutory right to do it and you can’t be summoned to a meeting if it (prayers) is on the agenda. I don’t think it is right that the members of the council can enforce something you don’t believe in.

“If you had a political council it would be like saying somebody would have to abide by the Conservative or Labour rules. But I am reserving judgement on it until I have spoken with my fellow parish councillors.”

John Gibbs, chief officer at Buckinghamshire Association of Local Councils, said: “I think it is a matter for each individual council. We will be looking at the ruling and getting advice from our national body.” Eric Pickles, communities and local government secretary, believes the new localism bill will allow councils to ‘logically include prayers before meetings’.