Pickles aims to settle prayer row
Councils will be able to choose to hold prayers before meetings by using the fast-tracked general power of competence, local government secretary Eric Pickles has stated.
Mr Pickles has brought forward the implementation of the GPC – a key part of the Localism Act – so that councils can, from this week, decide to hold prayers in advance of formal meetings.
Lord Ouseley recently effectively ruled that Bideford Town Council could not compel councillors to attend formal meetings that involved Christian prayers – although the judgement did, in effect, allow for prayers to be held on an informal and non-compulsory basis prior to meetings.
However, after the ruling, ministers promised to overturn the judgement – arguing that councils should be allowed to choose whether they held prayers prior to meetings.
Speaking this weekend, Mr Pickles old the BBC that he has brought forward GPC powers – which were due to be implemented alongside the rest of the Localism Act from April – to allow authorities to make the choice themselves. The wide-ranging GPC allows councils to do anything in the best interests of their area that is not already prohibited by law.
‘By effectively reversing that illiberal [High Court] ruling, we are striking a blow for localism over central interference, for freedom to worship over intolerant secularism, for Parliamentary sovereignty over judicial activism, and for long-standing British liberties over modern-day political correctness,’ Mr Pickles said.
Actually, the second highest court. My (sheepish) apologies!R Baxter, Added: Wednesday, 22 February 2012 01:14 PM
Oh dear. There's a reason for 'judicial activism' Mr Pickles; it's part of that essential element of democracy known as separation of powers. It doesn't bode well when Parliament starts interfering with the highest court in the land...R Baxter, Law Trainee, Added: Wednesday, 22 February 2012 01:00 PM
This counts as 'settling' it, does it? Adding fuel to the fire, I would have thought. It really does worry me that Pickles is so eager to get prayer back - has he so little confidence in politicians that prayer is only only hope? It feels like praying before an exam - it shouldn't be confused with working for it.Claudio, Resident, North East, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 06:07 PM
Who does this jumped up twerp councillor pickled think he is, he has no right whatsoever to overule a court of law decision. The court ruling does not stop prayers with everyones agreement, but this interfering nincompoop is demanding that councillors who do not want compulsory prayers, as part of a meeting, can be overuled! That is localism? No! It is not, freedom of choice is localism, not control from the centre by pickled!Graham, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 01:23 PM
A Yougov poll fielded on the 14th and 15th of February 2012 showed that just 26% think councils should hold prayers as part of formal meetings.Lee McLoughlin, Graviton Mediatech Ltd, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 12:40 PM
Much of the point has been missed. The issue was that councillors who weren't there during the prayers were deemed to be absent. In other words, if they arrived after the prayers the record would show they were absent. I was present at a Council meeting deciding to stop the grant to a Mosque's youth club. That started with Christian prayers. Does that give the impression of unbiassed decision making? Was the decision unbiassed? I think not.Jane Eades, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 10:53 AM
For me, the Council Chamber is a place of work and religion has no place there. If people want to believe in a God then that's fine, go to a Church/Mosque/Synogogue. But I don't believe in a God, I consider it an anachronism from the middle ages, and in a free country I object to Eric Pickles telling me that I MUST pray before a Council meeting (which also does not seem much like Localism if we have to comply with Diktats from Whitehall).Democratic Services Officer, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 10:02 AM
I also suggest that those that find it impossible to make distinction between myth and reality, i.e. those that pray, should not be allowed to work as MPs or councilors. In this country and the USA, data shows a higher percentage of Christians in prison than in the general population and also show Christians to have a below average IQ. To me, this means Christianity is generally bad on a personal level and for a country as a whole.Lee McLoughlin, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 09:44 AM
"...and yet another erosion of what we have known in this country" A bit like beheading you mean? That was another 'erosion of what we have known in this country'. Should that have continued for ever? Should the country progress and move with the times? "Why can't it be known there will be prayers before meetings" That's exactly what was suggested by the High Court. Not good enough for Eric Pickles, he wants to force ALL councilors to attend council prayers.Lee McLoughlin, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 09:36 AM
C'mon if everyone who was deemed wasting time and being incompetent sacked the unemployment figure would be over 5 million!! That a ruddy daft assertion. This whole prayers business is a storm in a teacup and yet another erosion of what we have known in this country. Why can't it be known there will be prayers before meetings and those who for whatever reason don't wish to participate come in the chamber immediately after?David Hankey, Added: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 08:58 AM
"Councils will be able to choose to hold prayers before meetings by using the fast-tracked general power of competence...Eric Pickles." That's odd because that's exactly what the High Court ruled. What Eric Pickles really wants to do is use his Localism Act to force non-Christians in to council prayer meetings. This would be contrary to Article 9.1 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Eric Pickles should be sacked for time wasting and incompetence.Lee McLoughlin, Director, Graviton Mediatech Ltd., Added: Monday, 20 February 2012 07:55 PM
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