Fighting back at move to abolish prayers

PUBLISHED: 12:30 28 October 2011

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Resident fights back against prayer abolition

ONE man has fought back against the proposal to abolish prayers at his local town council.

Axbridge Town Council first discussed the notion of abolishing prayers at its meetings in August when some councillors said the worship infringed on their rights as atheists.

Although nothing has been decided yet, Martin Cavender, of Houlgate Way, Axbridge, has spoken out against the idea of scrapping prayers at public meetings.

He said: “I think it is important to bring God into the debate. We are a Christian country and people have a right to pray.

“I don’t want to be silly about this, but the other end of the scale is that communism wiped out all prayers in China.”

At the council’s last meeting last week, it was decided to refer the matter to its personnel and protocol committee, who will investigate it and make recommendations to the council.

Axbridge Town Mayor Baz Hamblin said: “I would be very disappointed if we were told to scrap them.

“If we get rid of prayers, will we stop attending the church’s harvest festival? Will we stop paying for Christmas lights and a tree to be put up in the town square? Where will it all end?

“Christianity is being discriminated against in favour of a minority.”

The National Secular Society is currently pushing for legal reform in the High Court over the issue of council meeting prayers.

The group is arguing the prayers go against the right to choose not to practise religious beliefs outlined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Cavender said: “I urge the council not to be swayed by an outside source.

“In the last census, 71 per cent of the population identified themselves as Christian. There is no reason to believe the population of Axbridge differs significantly from this.”

Nearby Winscombe Parish Council sparked controversy when it ended 115 years of tradition and abolished prayers two years ago.

Archie Forbes, the council’s current chairman, said: “We abolished them because councillors wanted a civil parish council, not a religious parish council.

“We have no axe to grind against religion. We are not anti-church in any way, shape or form.”

He said that the Local Government Act of 1894 divorced the church from parish councils and that since then most parish councils had got rid of prayers at meetings.

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