Council prayer ruling is about freedom of conscience

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Commenting on initial reporting of the High Court ruling that Bideford Council is in breach of the law in making prayers a formal part of its business and summonsing councillors to attend, Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, said:

"The judgement on the Bideford Council case is about preserving freedom of religion and belief in public life, not curtailing it.

"It does not ban prayer. What it says is that is it is not lawful for a local council to make it a compulsory part of minuted council business and to summons councillors, whatever their beliefs and outlooks, to attend. That is quite different.

"Prayer is the freely offered activity of believers. Requiring those who do not believe to pray, and doing so in public bodies, is something which violates the nature of prayer and which many believers will feel offends free Christian and religious conscience.

"Christians and others are free to go on praying for public bodies, for justice and peace, and for many other vital concerns. But they are not free - and nor should they want to be - to compel others."

* Report: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16262