Let’s pray for better council decisions

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Councils have answered a bishop’s call to continue saying prayers at the start of meetings despite a High Court ban on their formal inclusion.

Kettering Council and Wellingborough Council plan to continue their tradition of starting full council meetings with a prayer by not including them as agenda items, as requested by Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister.

Sue Lyons, head of democratic and legal services at Kettering Council, said: “We do hold prayers at the start of council meetings only – and we intend to continue to do so.

“Prayers are not a formal part of the agenda, so we do not believe we are in the same position as were Bideford Town Council when their case was taken to court.”

A spokesman for Wellingborough Council, which in the past has held prayers at the start of full council meetings and the annual meeting of the council, said: “Once the mayor has processed into the council chamber and everyone is assembled, the mayor will make a statement that prayers will be said by the mayor’s chaplain before the mayor formally opens the meeting.”

Neither Corby Council nor East Northamptonshire Council hold prayers before their meetings, so are unaffected by the ban, although East Northamptionshire Council held prayers before full council meetings last financial year at the request of acting chairman Susan Homer. The mayor of Corby could opt to hold prayers before full council meetings, but has not for about 10 years.

Mr Allister said Britain was constitutionally a Christian country and he hoped the “good practices” would continue.

He said: “It is surely right to seek God’s guidance in our decision-making and his blessing on our communities.”

Alan Cooke, 78, of Chestnut Avenue, Kettering, said: “As an atheist I don’t think it should be forced down people’s throats.”