High Court rules prayers at formal Council meetings unlawful

This from the National Secular Society:

The High Court today ruled that “The saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a Council is not lawful under s111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue”. The judgement follows a Judicial Review initiated by the National Secular Society.

The judgement follows a Judicial Review initiated by the National Secular Society to challenge the practice of prayers as part of the formal business of council meetings in Bideford Town Council (Devon).

UPDATE: Here’s more from the BBC

UPDATE II: Cranmer has now blogged on this.

UPDATE III: Gregg has now blogged on this (Hard hitting with some swearing)

UPDATE IV: Cranmer has further blogged on this.

UPDATE V: The Telegraph have a voting poll on this issue; why not hop over and cast your vote. It’ll be interesting to view the outcome. At the moment, the results are surprising in a nice way :)

UPDATE VI: GodandPolitics and Roger Pearse have blogged and Premier have reported on this.

UPDATE VII: Heresy Corner declares this a pyrrhic victory for the NSS

UPDATE VIII: Ekklesia have a different take on today’s ruling. And here is an Ekklesia media statement.

UPDATE IX: Barrister Neil Addison comments.

11 comments on this post.
  1. Roger Pearse:

    Oh really?

    I suppose this shows that New Labour has corrupted the judges, and that the courts now need reform. Because something that has happened for decades cannot suddenly be illegal, and certainly was not made so in 1972.

    I had my doubts about the judicial system for a while, but this clinches it.

  2. Gordon:

    Roger, I don’t think the law has changed its just that nobody has ever asked for a judgement before. Thats how the law works.

  3. Evil in England – persecution of Christians grows at Roger Pearse:

    [...] first story is at eChurch blog, in the BBC and commented on by Cranmer.  This is headline news here, so needs little special [...]

  4. Rob Crompton:

    “Because something that has happened for decades cannot suddenly be illegal.”

    Wouldn’t that be a rather dodgy principle to apply to law-making? It was normal practice for ages so no laws should have been made against…. Fill in the blank?

  5. Roger Pearse:

    Would you prefer: “Something that everyone knew was legal becomes illegal without any act of parliament, supposedly under a 1972 never interpreted in that way and that interpretation contradicted in practice in every council chamber and session of the house of commons for 40 years?”

    We’re not discussing words, surely.

  6. Gordon:

    Law tends to be arrived at by applying the statutes in particular cases. I suspect the original writers of the acts did not intend this to happen. The procedure now is for parliament to enact a new law specifically allowing prayers if the council members wish to have them. Eric Pickles may be onto this already…

  7. Simian:

    Well, as you know webmaster, I’m a conscientious atheist. But I have to say that I find this whole thing very sad. Not because the law has been applied incorrectly, but because all this will do is to further polarise people’s views, and it all so unhelpful and uncharitable. Actually it might turn out to be an own goal in the longer term, as many otherwise neutral observers will feel a sense of indignation at this apparently mendacious action.
    I can only apologise for those of us who do not entertain such extreme opposition to a traditional ceremony. During my time in the Army I was compelled to attend countless religious services. It peeved me that I could be doing something more useful with my time, but it would not have occured to me to make a song and dance about it. I think there is a place for respectful tolerance of the expressed wishes of others, even if one does not agree, and a civilised society should not feel offended by sincere prayer.

  8. Simian:

    A strange coincidence that I should be due to attend a secular rally in London tomorrow organised by ‘One Law for All’ with the title “A Day to Defend Free Expression”! Hmmm….

  9. Goy:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    Maryam Namazie (Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran) – ‘One Law for All’ sounds like sharia law gift wrapped in communism.

    Enemies Not Allies: The Far-Right – lol nothing but a slander slogan and ideological nonsense serving as an exclusion order against Western conservatism. Farewell to Democracy in the U.K.

  10. Simian:

    Goy
    If I have understood your first sentence correctly I think you are very mistaken. Maryam is a very outspoken critic of Sharia, and her Communism is idealist. It certainly is not her intention to exchange one form of totalitarianism for another. I think her political stance was originally influenced by her rejection of the totalitarian theocracy in Iran after the revolution. It would be hard to find a more outspoken critic of Sharia. I heard her speak the other day, and she does not pull her punches!

    Regarding the phrase ‘Farewell to democracy in the UK’ – As I’ve stated in my previous comment above, I’m not particularly happy that this case was initiated, but surely the legal process and the ratonale behind the outcome clearly demonstrates that democracy is very much alive and kicking in the UK?

  11. Goy:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    Maryam Namazie essentially makes no distinction between islam and christianity, nothing more than a political opportunist taking a red hammer and nailing the charge of sharia law to the church door with the desire that all will come tumbling down thus bringing about an atheistic communist ideal (totalitarian utopia) in the West.

    Maryam Namazie should know better than most that islam is not a religion as the word is understood in the 21st century West it is a ritualized political ideology.