It’s like something you would see in the States. A public body wants to include prayers and they are warned about being sued. After all, somebody might be offended by short introductory Christian prayers. This may seem strange in the country with an established Church.
What you have to remember is that Parliament is no longer the supreme authority in the land. The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) is worried about the implications of Article 9 of the and Fundamental Freedoms, which trumps any British legislation. The language of it seems innocuous enough: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
The NALC is worried that this could be used by anyone, councillor or member of the public, to argue that their right to practise their non-Christian religion or no religion could be infringe. That’s why they’ve urge the Bideford town council to stop praying. They want to eliminate any risk of a court challenge. Clearly, once one council has been challenged then any others might be challenged. Town and parish councils have such small budgets than any sort of damages awarded would be devastating.
But it is not just European law that is a problem. The NALC is worried that the Race Discrimination Act may also come into play. I have never understood this. What does religion have to do with race? After all, most Christians in the world are not of the same race as the members of Bideford Town Council.
For now Bideford Town Council have voted to keep the prayers, after one councillor offered a motion to get rid of them. Unfortunately they are waiting to see what the Government’s position is on all this before discussing it again. Knowing this Government’s track record against Christianiy, that does not bode well.