Bognor Regis Town Council told to think again about saying a prayer

A BID has been made to stop Bognor Regis town councillors officially saying prayers.

The West Sussex Humanists have called on them to obey a High Court judgment which ruled prayers should not form part of official council meetings.

Andrew Edmondson, of the humanists, told the council: “... I request that your council ceases to hold prayers during council meetings. Furthermore, if prayers are organised before a meeting, they should not be held in the council chamber, as this will be seen to ‘mark out the non-Christian’ councillors.”

The town council’s meetings every two months have featured a prayer session for most of the past 20 years or so. They have recently been led by Father Andrew Wadsworth of the parish church of St Wilfrid’s.

Mr Edmondson has been told by the town council’s civic and support services manager Heather Knight changes to the practice needed to be considered by councillors. They would be asked to consider them at a future meeting.

But it is believed the timing of the prayers before the meeting officially starts means the council obeys the ruling.

The issue has arisen after the National Secular Society was backed by Mr Justice Ouseley in a recent High Court case.

He ruled Bideford Town Council, in Devon, was acting unlawfully in saying public prayers at its full council meetings.

But the matter took a further twist last Saturday when communities secretary Eric Pickles said he was ‘effectively reversing’ the High Court’s ‘illiberal ruling’.