Jake Berry2c
Civil Liberties

Jake Berry MP seeks to extend the freedom of public bodies to pray

 

When Councillor Clive Bone of Bideford Town Council attempted to put a stop to the despicable discriminatory practice of formally beginning their meetings with prayers, the council dismissed his blathering and voted to continue with its divine exhortation and intercessions, as they have done for centuries. When Mr Bone was no longer a councillor, he got together with the National Secular Society to challenge the tradition of prayers constituting part of the council’s official business, and they won. Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, trumpeted: “This judgment is an important victory for everyone who wants a secular society, one that neither advantages nor disadvantages people because of their religion or lack of it.”

Mr Bone’s challenge was threefold: firstly, that Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, which makes provision for the statutory powers of local authorities, did not provide the vires for the council to hold prayers as part of its formal business; secondly, that the holding of prayers as practised by Bideford Town Council unlawfully discriminated against unbelieving Mr Bone; and thirdly, that the practice infringed Mr Bone’s human rights.

The High Court judgement by Mr Justice Ouseley on 10 February 2012 established that the saying of prayers as part of the formal meeting of a council is not lawful under Section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, and there is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue. If it were lawful, the manner in which the practice was carried out in Bideford neither infringed Mr Bone’s human rights nor discriminated indirectly against him on the grounds of his lack of religious belief. But, after centuries of divine invocation, Mr Justice Ouseley deemed “Prayers etc.” as part of the business agenda to be unlawful.

This somewhat irked Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Following the judgement, Mr Pickles fast-tracked the introduction of the general power of competence – to provide sufficient powers to enable principal local authorities in England to include prayers once again as part of their formal business, if they so wished. The power is now, in effect, for all principal local authorities in England (including London, district, county, metropolitan and unitary councils) and for certain parish councils which meet the eligibility conditions set out in The Parish Councils (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012. The power enables councils to do anything that an individual could do unless it is specifically prohibited by law. These new flexibilities include the freedom to pray and hold prayers at the start of council meetings, should they wish. The power was brought into effect on 18th February 2012.

However, parish councils which do not meet the eligibility criteria (ie where members are mainly elected and there is a qualified clerk) are still without sufficient powers to enable them to include prayers as an item of business. As a result, Eric Pickles and HM Government are supporting a Private Members’ Bill to remedy the situation.

Today Jake Berry MP – a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship – introduces the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill for its Second Reading. Its stated purpose is to “Make provision about the inclusion at local authority meetings of observances that are, and about powers of local authorities in relation to events that to any extent are, religious or related to a religious or philosophical belief.” No doubt this will irritate and annoy the trumpeting humanist-secularist lobby which seeks to expunge all expression of religion and spirituality from public life. But Mr Pickles doesn’t mind that: he tends to defend Christian traditions and stand up for churches whenever he can, especially where a matter falls under his aegis. You may not always agree with him, but no secretary of state over the past four-and-a-half years has done more to bolster freedom of religion.

The Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill will make explicit the right of English local authorities (and a range of other English bodies such as fire and rescue authorities, integrated transport authorities and combined authorities) to include “Prayers etc.” as an item of business should they wish to do so. It further aims to allow these bodies to support, facilitate, or be represented at religious or similar events. No longer will there be a right in English law to object to an authority participating in (say) the annual commemoration of Remembrance Sunday, which might have a religious dimension.

Eric Pickles has been consistent and clear that the 2012 decision by the High Court represents an unacceptable marginalisation of Christianity in the public sphere. Its prohibition is an expression of illiberal and intolerant secularism. The Secretary of State believes that Christianity continues to play an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation. He is clear that there should be respect for those of other faiths as well as for those of none. But freedom of religion is a fundamental and hard-fought liberty, and he understands how it is inextricably enmeshed and entwined with political freedom.

  • Shadrach Fire

    Freedom of religion and the liberty to pray is a valuable tradition that should not have been removed and Mr Pickles has indeed done much to support Christian Religious traditions. (Along with his passion for flags.) His actions are I regret motivated by his own peculiar understanding of Christian principals. He has stood up for those things that are ‘Religious and Traditional’. They are not however motivated by a faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, as a Secretary of State he has been supportive of religion and tradition but when it came to the biggy of Biblical faith, SSM, he was way off beam.
    I would have preferred all the other items to have been repressed, (a believer can pray within his heart more effective that the outward observance of religion) and have had his support against that which is leading towards a Sodomisation of the UK.

    • Gerhard

      And all this because one busy body couldn’t tolerate another speaking to God..

      • sarky

        But surely the point is that the majority of the people saying these prayers wont be christians anyway. Therefore is It ok that they would just be going through the motions, rendering such prayers powerless? As christians doesn’t it bother you that the act of prayer is relegated to the end of a meeting and carried out by people who aren’t really bothered, therefore somehow cheapening it. Isn’t it better in this case to just not bother?

        • carl jacobs

          Gracious. I just upvoted sarky. I had no choice. He made a good argument. Now I am going to have to shoot myself.

          Goodbye, cruel world….

          • sarky

            Ha ha law of averages, had to happen sooner or later!

        • Gerhard

          Sarky, I would normally love to engage, but you are not here for serious discussion. As the proverb goes: ‘don’t throw your pearls before swine..’

          • carl jacobs

            Gerhard

            You have to give him a chance to change.

          • Gerhard

            Carl, you know as soon as I sent that I knew one of the more mature resident Christians will slap my wrist.. Perhaps you are right. Sarky, I apologise if you are reading this..

          • sarky

            No problem!

        • CliveM

          Why would the majority not be Christian? One thing about Christians is that they are disproportionately active in supporting community activities. We care about society and want to help our neighbour.

          • sarky

            The percentage of christian councilors comes in at about 30%, so my comment is justified.

          • CliveM

            Where do you get this figure from?

  • len

    That there is a move by secular powers to stop Christians praying seems quite intriguing to me.
    If there is no God(as secularists believe ) then what is the harm of Christians praying, why not just humour them in a harmless pastime?.
    But …if there is a God ( which secularists cannot disprove ) then secularists perhaps have reason to be concerned that the prayers of Christians might thwart some of their plans to totally secularise society?.

    • DanJ0

      “( which secularists cannot disprove )”

      Nor the existence of unicorns.

      • alternative_perspective

        DanJ0, that’s a somewhat vacuous remark, though true.

        Let me know who is putting the hypothesis forward that unicorns exist and I’ll give your counterpoint a little more thought.

        As for the existence of God, there are frankly dozens of strong arguments for and none thus far of particular strength against.

        Here’s about two dozen from one of our era’s truly great thinkers.
        http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/plantinga_alvin/two_dozen_or_so_theistic_arguments.pdf

        • DanJ0

          “DanJ0, that’s a somewhat vacuous remark, though true.”

          It captures the moment very well, I thought.

          I could have pointed out that Len can’t disprove the existence of Allah either but it doesn’t really add a great deal in these situations to claim that someone can’t disprove something like that.

  • cypruspete

    Just to clarify the nature of the legislation, is Mr. Bone suggesting that where majority councils are other than CoE based, that the prayers as a mandatory part of the meeting will be from the majority religion, asking for the divinely inspired wisdom of the Pope in Liverpool, perhaps, or the commendation of proceedings to Allah in Tower Hamlets, Luton, and Bradford?

    I’m sure the CoE council members will be happy to wait outside in an ante room if they do not wish to participate, and attend Mass, or decline food during during council meetings and events in daylight during Ramadan, in their roles as representatives of the Council, and contemplate prayers to the Council nominated ‘true religion’ without complaint or rancor

    • alternative_perspective

      Yes, I’m sure most would. All Christians would be happy for any other denomination to lead prayers and most, I proffer, would be happy to pray in parallel with Muslims for divine grace, differing only in who these are submitted to / through.
      I sense its the “liberal” secularist here: who under the guise of “protecting religious freedom” is actually working to reduce said freedoms out of their own paranoias and prejudices.
      Hey but I might be wrong.

  • carl jacobs

    voted to continue with its divine exhortation and intercessions, as they have done for centuries

    It is a tradition at American sporting events to play the National Anthem before the game, and lately the practice has become so offensive to me that I simply mute the broadcast for the duration. It has become a spectacle of artistic innovation – a performance more about the musician than the Anthem. To those in Uniform, the Anthem is surrounded by requirements of good order and discipline. These performances make mockery of it, and so I can hardly bare to watch.

    And so it is that I find myself at least a little sympathetic to (if not persuaded by) the NSSs position. Sure, their intent is to drive religion from the public square. They desire that it be relegated to private buildings where it will be neither seen nor heard. But a Christian should ask “What is the purpose of invocation at the start of a public gathering?” Is it worship in the sense of believers expressing a shared faith in God? Is it merely tradition intended to present timeless continuity through a comfortable set of rituals? Is it a pro forma declaration of God’s sovereignty? In other words, is it about God or is it about men? If the later, then it is offensive in divine hearing, and it would best be done away with.

    It’s not supposed to be about us, after all.

    • alternative_perspective

      Surely its about asking the supreme being for wisdom in conducting business and the establishment of a virtuous state and legal system.

      • carl jacobs

        So. Syncretism then?

      • Malcolm Smith

        Not only that, but it also means that it cements Christianity as the default culture of the nation. And, to anticipate other objections, if a council were to open with heathen prayers, I would expect – nay, insist – that everybody walk out. It would also be a wake-up call to the nation that something is very rotten in the state.

  • Linus

    So what do Muslim and Jewish councillors do during these prayers? Stop up their ears and close their eyes, or just leave the room?

    Religion has no place in public life. Everyone’s entitled to their faith, but they’re not entitled to foist it on other people when carrying out public duties.

    • carl jacobs

      Religion has no place in public life.

      The careful reader will note the de facto establishment of Secularism inherent in that statement. It’s evidently quite alright for Secularists to foist their faith system … excuse me… their metaphysical presuppositions on other people.

      In fact, that’s the point.

      • cypruspete

        Actually, I think the naturally predisposed reader will note that, the careful one might note that, given the predisposition of the likely audience “Religions have no place in public life” might have been a little……….. safer

        The whole point is that the real guarantee of religious freedom for all is not protecting the devotee from those who would have him turn his face from God, but from those who would have him reject his false god, and embrace the true one, as defined by the State.

        Because we all know how well THAT turns out

        • carl jacobs

          Part of religious freedom is my being able to bring my religion with me into the public square. Because I bring it with me, I therefore guarantee that Religion has a place in public life so long as I have a place in public life. The Secularist does not seek to protect my Religious freedom by driving religion out of public life. He seeks to marginalize and isolate it. He seeks principally to protect himself from the indirect influence of religion upon his behavior. He wants to prevent religious presuppositions from being used as the basis of law simply because religious men create the law. Instead he wants his own irreligious presuppositions to become the basis of law. That is the de facto establishment to which I referred.

          • cypruspete

            Religions marginalise and isolate themselves, by proclaiming an absolute certainty in the divinity of Christ, the authority and infallibility of the Pope, the final and incontrovertible finality of the instructions of God as received by Mohammed, etc, etc.

            The divinity of Christ is itself a deeply irreligious pre-supposition to the majority of the worlds population.

            This only becomes a political problem when the state endorses, or worse, mandates, that a particular religious ‘truth’ is the correct one.

            As you will see if you turn on the news now, the true defense a state can make for an individuals freedom of religion is not against the secular bullying of those who would have him rely only on basic human solidarity, but the clerical bullying of those who would completely endorse his obeisance to a supreme power, if only it was to the ‘correct’ one

          • carl jacobs

            cypruspete

            If religious people marginalize themselves relative to the majority of the world’s population, then Secularists marginalize themselves even more. Belief is much more prevalent than unbelief. However, even the unspoken subject of your argument is false. You are presuming that Secularism occupies some sort of neutral place between religions. There is in fact nothing neutral about that place. Secularism contains its own consistent set of metaphysical presuppositions. It constitutes its own faith system. It is therefore not religiously neutral. It is based towards non-religion.

            rely only on basic human solidarity

            And what in the world would that be? Do you think there is some common ground upon which all men agree? Do you think this presupposed ‘solidarity’ can be separated from the authorities by which men determine what is good, right and true? It sounds like you are trying to bootstrap some objective truth without defining any authority to sustain it.

            You asked earlier…

            so I’m not really sure why it invalidates the answer to William’s question.

            The answer is that William was talking about an essential feature of man whereas you were referring to arbitrary and artificial constructs of the state. What the state may arbitrarily assign the state may arbitrarily remove. It reflects nothing of the nature of man himself but only his transient relationship with authority. This is likewise the problem with your ‘basic human solidarity.’ Unless it is rooted in the unchanging nature of God, it is completely arbitrary, and therefore completely disposable. The only natural human solidarity is based upon power. You have what you can take. You keep it so long as you have the power to keep it. A man is free to draw the scope of his solidarity as wide or as barrow as he wishes. The correctness of his decision is a tautology. The winner is by definition right. And power will determine the winner.

            You may resist that reality, but that is what you have got.

        • alternative_perspective

          Yes, well we should certainly avoid secularism then; given its track record.
          Look at the secular French revolution or the US today and the virulent way the secular establishment are attempting to drive faith and those with faith out of the public domain and even out of work: something secularist across the UK are wont to do on occasion.

          • cypruspete

            If you are referring the same US where:

            Over half the population believe the bible to be literally true, and evolution is a marxist plot;
            There is an ongoing and serious debate as to whether it is correct to teach the blasphemy of evolution in schools
            Over 80% of the population agree it would be impossible for an atheist to be elected President;
            A majority believe that Christ will return to earth and sort out all those pesky non-christians within the next 50 years;
            Huge swathes of secular legislation was repealed in the 1950’s and the word God inserted in various places to protect them from communism;
            Christian faith organisations enjoy an almost complete immunity from taxation;
            Active and open Christian organisations support the repatriation of Jews so we can get Armageddon started nice and early, and, of course;
            Christian Ministers can go on TV and raise substantial funds by saying either
            a) Jesus has said he will strike me dead if I don’t raise the required amount of money, and/or
            b) The reason that God flooded New Orleans was because we allowed fags to marry, and God hates fags

            Then I’d have to say that of all the problems the US are suffering from at the moment, a lack of Christianity doesn’t seem to be one of them

            In terms of the French, well, what can I say, totalitarianism is totalitarianism, whether it’s politically or religiously based, and politically based tyrannies persecute religions for the same reason religious based one do, they are removing the competition.

            On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a state terrorizing or killing large numbers of their population because they were too tolerant of other beliefs, too critical of received wisdom and authority, or too democratic or respectful of basic human solidarity.

            Maybe you have?

    • William Lewis

      “Everyone’s entitled to their faith”

      I do not recognise your self appointed proclamation as to what I am or am not entitled to. By what authority do you say that I am entitled to my faith?

      • cypruspete

        European Convention on Human Rights Article 9, formalized in English Law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

        By what authority would you suggest to the contrary, the First Commandment?

        • carl jacobs

          Begs the question. For if Human Rights are given by the authority of the Gov’t then they can also be removed by the authority of the Gov’t. So you have not answered the question. You have simply shifted its scope.

          • cypruspete

            I would have thought that the statement :

            Rights granted by [x] can be removed by [x]

            would be a truism for any value of [x] be it the State, God, my Dad or anything else, so I’m not really sure why it invalidates the answer to William’s question.

            We have all agreed to be bound by English Law [assuming you are in England] and that makes it clear, via the provisions I outlined, that I am to respect William’s right to believe in whatever he wishes to, at the risk of sanctions should I try and prevent him.

            So it is by this authority that William is protected against attempts to make his particular faith illegal, or otherwise dangerous for him to hold [from me at least]

            William appears to reject this authority however, which is quite brave of him, I think.

            Especially when one considers all those areas of the world where the state sanctioned punishment for being a Christian, or otherwise offending the one ‘true’ religion is torture and death

          • William Lewis

            “I am to respect William’s right to believe in whatever he wishes to, at the risk of sanctions should I try and prevent him.”

            With respect, you are no more able to prevent me from believing in something than I can stop you thinking of a pink elephant. Your hubris is interesting (and somewhat totalitarian in its inclination, I believe). The question is of course whether you should prevent me from acting on my beliefs in public (with prayers at public meetings, for instance).

            However, I must thank you for your concern, but my “bravery” is nothing compared to that of those who would deny (or persecute) my faith. In any case, my faith is subject to a higher authority, to which all beliefs and actions will ultimately be accountable. So not bravery, just common sense really.

          • cypruspete

            “With respect, you are no more able to prevent me from believing in something than I can stop you thinking of a pink elephant”

            With respect, I would suggest that some of your colleagues in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi, [to name but a few] may have a slightly different view as to how well the state can interfere in your rights to openly support a particular faith, especially to the extent that you claim particular political privileges with respect to it.

          • William Lewis

            Which just goes to show that the state cannot be relied upon to protect me or my faith and is another reason why I do not recognise its authority to bestow entitlement upon me w.r.t. my faith.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Just a little point…when exactly did we all agree to be bound by English law? Were we asked to consent, as in signing a contract? Must have missed it…a bishop’s wife is often distracted, especially by muscular Christianity.

          • dannybhoy

            Depends how far or near in history Mrs Proudie wishes to linger..

          • carl jacobs

            A hit, Madam! And a standing eight-count no less! Well done.

            Next time, put some of those British … what do you call them … biscuits in a hand bag and smack him on the side of the head. That should hurt quite severely. British cooking is after all the most lethal weapon in the world.

            😉

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Dear Carl, they are called hobnobs…I must send you some. As to our cooking, let me assure you that suet dumplings and spotted dick forged an empire…such a pity your lot ducked out of it.

        • William Lewis

          I have not suggested the contrary. I have my faith whether you entitle me or not. The point is that I do not recognise your, or the ECHR’s, authority to bestow that entitlement upon me.

          Am I also entitled to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide?

          • Uncle Brian

            Am I also entitled to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide?
            Yes, provisionally, for the time being, until further notice.

          • William Lewis

            Presumably, if I can offset my carbon footprint, I might be able to take a few puffs now and again.

          • Uncle Brian

            I’m sorry, I don’t have the authority to grant any exemptions. I’ll have to pass your request on to Al Gore.

          • William Lewis

            🙂

    • IanCad

      Linus,

      I’m sure the Muslim and Jewsh councillors would respectfully listen and endorse the prayers of those acknowledging that the God of Abraham is supreme in the universe.

      Within the beliefs of those who pray is the recognition of the need for divine mercy and guidance. A requirement almost entirely absent within the community of unbelievers .

      Ian

    • DanJ0

      “So what do Muslim and Jewish councillors do during these prayers? Stop up their ears and close their eyes, or just leave the room?”

      Christian councilors may face the same decision themselves, if the content of the prayers or observances don’t suit them. It’s what one might call an ‘equal opportunities’ Bill, making no mention of Christian content in the prayers. If I recall correctly from the last time this topic came up, the type of observances or the lack of them are decided by the council leader in Leicester.

    • alternative_perspective

      Religion ought to be first and foremost in ALL public business, particularly the Christian variety. All matters of business should be preceded and followed by prayer.
      In order to show solidarity with those who are so unwilling, illiberal and uncharitable that they are unable to tolerate others’ beliefs, they would be permitted to join any meeting directly after and leave before said prayers or to be issued with appropriate PPE, such as ear defenders, so that they might be able to sit through the prayers for widom, charity and justice without being infected by such terrible “virtues”.
      Moreover I am everso glad you permit me to have and practice a faith though what happens if a fundamental tenet of that faith requires public declaration of it? Am I still entitled to it or must I submit to your beliefs?

      • DanJ0

        “In order to show solidarity with those who are so unwilling, illiberal and uncharitable that they are unable to tolerate others’ beliefs […]”

        Perhaps the time will come in Leicester when the council chooses to sacrifice a water buffalo outside the Corn Exchange to harness some Shakti prior to debating whether to put the prices up in the municipal car parks. I suppose the CofE council members could bless the animal beforehand, to be inclusive, and the Roman Catholic ones could pray to St. Francis of Assisi.

    • Well they can wait outside and join the meetings after prayers, or they can show that they are bigger than that and join in Christian prayers even though they are Muslim,Jewish or whatever. To take part in and be part of our culture and society with good manners and grace will foster friendship and good feeling.

    • Well they can wait outside and join the meetings after prayers, or they can show that they are bigger than that and join in Christian prayers even though they are Muslim,Jewish or whatever. To take part in and be part of our culture and society with good manners and grace will foster friendship and good feeling.

      • ADT1969

        Wow, great christian values….. I’m struggling how this practice will “foster friendship and good feeling “

        • Oh mind now that we dare inconvenience you in any way!

          It would be nice if you could swallow your scepticism and warm your cold heart to join in, but if that’s too much to ask you could have an extra 10 minutes in the rest room.

          I’m not a Hindu, but I joined in when invited in their country, I
          wouldn’t go as far as bathing in the river so I watched from the bank. I didn’t moan and demand that they not carry out the ceremony, and they didn’t force me to join in. It was nice.

          • ADT1969

            why would I join in with something I find repulsive and demeaning?
            How about you all have 10 minutes in the restroom before the meeting to pray?
            If the meeting included believers of other religions, Islam, Hindu, Buddhist etc, do they each have 10mins before the meeting starts to pray to their respective gods? If not, why not?
            Being invited to or attending a religious ceremony is completely different to the situation we are discussing.

          • This isn’t an Assisi interfaith gathering we discussing! Not all faiths are equal or deserve equal treatment under the law. Britain is still a Christian nation with an established Church. Get over it.

          • ADT1969

            I believe your last post has strengthened my point

          • DanJ0

            Well, quite. 3 million nominally Muslim citizens and counting. 1 million nominally Hindu citizens and counting. Why would these people continue to accept the establishment of the CofE when they already heavily outnumber church-attending CofE members?

          • Nothing repulsive about asking God for guidance and being grateful for his mercy, seems it’s all a bit beneath some people though isn’t it?

            No, prayers will be in the meeting room. It’s our culture. Having an extra 10 minutes in the rest room would also apply to muslims, Sikis, Hindus, and anybody else of another religious belief as well as those who had no religious beliefs who did not wish to join in Christian prayers.

          • ADT1969

            What have you done to be grateful for his mercy? I’m really struggling to see how not asking for guidance is demeaning, didn’t he ‘give’ man free will?

            So everyone else apart from Christians can wait outside, I’m genuinely speechless, this is 2014 right?

          • Well we own our lives to God, he created us, but of course you do

          • I’ve replied but it disappeared??!

          • ADT1969

            Divine intervention

          • Little Black Censored

            “… this is 2014 right?”
            Well, at least there’s no denying that.

        • Little Black Censored

          “I’m struggling how”??

    • Little Black Censored

      Religion has no place in public life.
      Not a strong enough argument. You should have concluded with “End of”.

  • DanJ0

    The Bill is about religious freedom and so it opens it up for all religions, of course. Presumably in Bradford the prayers may be directed toward Allah instead.

    • len

      Islam has 1.57 billion adherents who are are praying that their god will rule supreme on this Earth..and in many places this is starting to happen…
      How do secularists proposes to halt this?.
      The current theory seems to be do not annoy Muslims by letting Christians pray…and everything will sort itself out …in time…perhaps…hopefully….

      • DanJ0

        “How do secularists proposes to halt this?.”

        Halt it? The article is about Jake Berry’s Bill. That’s Jake Berry from the Conservative Christian Fellowship, apparently. The intention of the Bill is to promote religious freedom. Therefore, it gives religious freedom to others as well as Christians in this area. That’s the nature of such freedom. Is this not what you actually want? Then perhaps you should oppose the Bill. I’m happy for my contribution here to be to point out what the consequences are of the Bill if it becomes an Act. You know, just in case some people haven’t thought it through.

        • dannybhoy

          You have a good point.
          This Great Britain, this United Kingdom was largely shaped by the Judaeo/Christian faith and classical Greek philosophy.
          The acceptance of Multiculturalism and Human Rights legislation has marginalised Christianity and all the great offices of State.
          We just haven’t realised it yet…

          • DanJ0

            I don’t think it can be stopped at the moment, it follows from globalisation and mass immigration. On what basis can one reasonably point to 3 million of our population and say you’re second-class citizens as a result of you religious beliefs and/or heritage even though a large number of you are born and bred UK citizens? These people may well dominate local councils, and they influence our national politics directly and indirectly. A tradition of CofE Christianity is not going to maintain its albeit pretty benign hegemony for much longer, and there will surely be tensions in future years over our constitution and its establishment of the CofE as the population changes. We have the power at the moment to put something more appropriate in place and let it bed in properly in the national psyche, but that that won’t always be the case.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes I agree with you.
            “Civilisations rise, blossom, wilt and fade..”
            Dannybhoysius 2014
            Whether or not people agree with my views on prophecy, I am I think a realist and can see the writing is on the wall for the stability we have enjoyed in this country and the West generally.
            It may be that we will see eruptions of communal violence and acts of terrorism, along with the implementation of a more totalitarian state involving curfews and id cards, similar to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. More persecution for us Christians but also a real growth in the churches. Revival even.
            Whatever, we know it can’t stay as it is.

        • len

          Religious freedom for Islam and all that entails.
          Have you thought this through?
          Freedom carries responsibility I know this Isn`t popular with secularists.

          • DanJ0

            The concept of freedom implies a lack of coercion and restraint. You’re not talking about religious freedom at all. The Bill, introduced by an MP who is a member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, enables the religious of any flavour to bring their religious observances into the formalities of State business. This is not a secularist’s Bill at all. Read the article, Len, for goodness’sake.

  • Martin

    When I moved into a work role that required I attend meetings I always found it odd that meetings did not start with prayer. After all, the church members meetings, which were the meetings I had experience of, always did so.

    If we do not start our business with a sense of obedience to the will of God we are missing out on something, the knowledge that everything is in His hand.

    • Phil R

      Martin
      Is this how Jesus told how to pray and what it is for?

      • Martin

        Phil

        Do you not think Jesus taught that we should seek God’s wisdom in making decisions?

        • Phil R

          Martin

          Read again the last paragraph of your comment that I responded to.

          Then read your reply to me again.

          Which one is right?

          • Martin

            Phil

            I was uncertain of your meaning and I still am.

  • Stephen Milroy

    People like Keith Porteous Wood make me want to have psalm 14 carved into the face of every public building in this country….

  • len

    Secularists seem to want either no prayers or every religion on earth to be able to offer up prayers?.
    This to me illustrates the stupidity of the secular world view.
    Freedom carries a responsibility to the greater good of society as a whole.
    But in the secular view(apparently) any religion (even those who advocate beheading
    opponents) must be given the right to take the floor and promote their religion.
    Secularists(and all the rest of society) are being exposed to this ridiculous and very dangerous worldview.

    • DanJ0

      In short, you want to restrict religious freedom and assert a Christian right. It was ever thus with the religious as a whole.

      • len

        As I have stated elsewhere I agree with ANY religion given the right to express its views up to the point where they advocate violence to enforce those views.
        Seems perfectly reasonable to me .What are your views on free speech?.

        • DanJ0

          I don’t know why you feel the need to ask as I’m a liberal in the JS Mill tradition and I’ve made many comments about it here, such as those on the Tony Miano article. Moreover, I support Article 9 of the ECHR, recognising both its parts of course.

          But this isn’t about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of religion in local government so that local councils can include religious observances in their meetings, and formally take part in religious events.

          If you’re happy that a local council dominated by Muslims ought to have the right to include prayers to Allah instead of ones to the CofE one on its order of business then you presumably support this Bill, which is clearly not a secularist one, despite your comments elsewhere.

          • len

            I cannot imagine muslims offering up prayers to the Christian God (unless they have become enlightened to the the Gospel of Jesus Christ the only pathway to salvation )so I would imagine muslims would continue to invoke their god to do what he does best ( and the results of that are pretty obvious worldwide.)

            Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are surely both sides of the same coin?.
            If I am a Christian and not allowed to express my Christianity vocally is that not limiting my freedom?.

            Can you seriously not see the difference of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and its message of love and tolerance and the teachings of Mohammed.?.

          • DanJ0

            “Can you seriously not see the difference of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and its message of love and tolerance and the teachings of Mohammed.?.”

            As far as the Bill is concerned, it does not matter what the differences are. You”re really not getting this, as far as I can see.

        • dannybhoy

          “I agree with ANY religion given the right to express its views..”
          But not, as far as I am concerned in the country they have chosen to come and live in because their own country is a mess/is oppressive/is backwards/is antithetical to the host culture..
          This is the problem. People chose to come here.
          So that means here is temporarily/permanently better than there where I came from
          If it’s a temporary thing, go back when things improve in your home country.
          If it’s a permanent thing stay, and accept that where your values clash with those of the host culture, it’s YOUR values which must give way. Don’t try and impose your values on your adopted home lest you end up recreating what you fled in the first place.

      • dannybhoy

        No DanJ0
        that’s not what he’s saying.
        He’s saying that it was Christianity which has played the largest part in shaping our world view, our values and attitudes and societal structures (however currently creaky)
        It was humanistic/ anti or corrupted Christian/ liberal democratic ideology which allowed for a multicultural, “all religions and all life styles are of equal value” creed that has brought us to this situation.

        • DanJ0

          It doesn’t matter how we got here. This Christian MP has introduced a Bill which will have consequences some people here may not like. It is not a secular Bill, it’s the opposite. It is not secularists that are advocating giving the right of any religion to take the floor and promote their religion, as Len describes it, it is Jake Berry MP from the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

  • Graham Goldsmith

    Was it the case that Prayers prior to Bideford Town council meetings were voted for by counselors with a provision that those objecting need not attend. Seems reasonable to me. Also Clive Bone in asking to be free from religion as a human right because he was embarrassed by prayers. Its not realistic to be free from religion because it is part of everyday life and his need to resort to law to assert this ”right” shows the fragility of secular thinking. Jesus Christ as the suffering servant gives us a more realistic picture in that his teachings help us build resilience to those things we find unpleasant.

    • Little Black Censored

      Clive Bone was behaving like the homosexuals taking the Christian landlady to court; it was always open to atheist councillors to come into the meeting when the prayers were finished, and that is what they used to do.
      Nobody has mentioned prayers in Parliament yet; presumably the secularists want those stopped as well, and to have St Stephen’s Chapel turned into a store-room?

      • DanJ0

        “Nobody has mentioned prayers in Parliament yet; presumably the secularists want those stopped as well, and to have St Stephen’s Chapel turned into a store-room?”

        In time, and all things being equal, yes. I think it’s a little different now at the local level because we have areas which are largely Muslim or Hindu now, so local councils are much more likely to reflect that. That’s not true at national level. Personally, I’m not looking forward to other religions getting a foot in the door as far as governance is concerned. The establishment of the CofE is an anachronism now but luckily it’s benign. In our multicultural and multi-ethnic country, I think we have two ways to go: 1. We create a secular constitution over time so that all religions fall under the umbrella of the State; 2. Our laws start to reflect the mores of other religions as well as the CofE as tensions arising from representation issues become apparent. I don’t think we will be able to carry on as we are, and I think strengthening the establishment of the CofE is a non-starter.

  • carl jacobs

    There is a subtle confusion on this thread. Are these official prayers supposed to demonstrate:

    1. The fundamentally Christian nature of the UK as reflected in the established church?

    2. Tolerance of religion in the public square?

    There is a sense that the argument being made is “Non-Christians should tolerate an official declaration of Christian predominance.” You can make argument 1. You can make argument 2. But you can’t make both.

    • Graham Goldsmith

      Prayers before such meetings are part of a long tradition and are a reflection of the substance of Christianity to appeal to something greater than the self in considering public affairs. Its not a huge issue except that where it is voted for democratically it should be tolerated and retained. Not so much about the established church although its origins are probably institutional but more a personal recognition of how the teachings of Jesus best guide us in matters of integrity and governance

      • carl jacobs

        Graham

        Tradition is a terrible reason to do something nominally religious. He who worships must worship in spirit and in truth. There is neither spirit nor truth in the formal ritualism of official prayers. You seem to be arguing that it has pedagogical value for people to see men submitting to God’s sovereign authority. But that is the case only if they are in fact actually submitting and not just going through the motions for the sake of tradition.

  • Nick

    How effective have the prayers of councillors been up until now? Maybe you can imagine some councillor with great integrity uttering some heartfelt prayer in the council chamber before engaging in some grand, brave vote, but the truth of it may be different. Certainly, retain the prayers out of principle and for the sake of freedom, but even if this particular battle is lost at least people will sympathise with the Christian community over it. Most of the councillors will do what they like anyway. They always do.

  • len

    What we are really discussing here is freedom to express oneself as a Christian.
    Christians are instructed to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ , we are instructed to be a Light to the World also Salt( which stops decay) how can we do this if we are afraid to speak!.
    I say pray and if people are offended or upset embarrased or whatever that is their problem.
    Christians need to come out of the closet and to stand up for the Gospel…regardless of the consequences.

    If the apostles had been afraid to speak the Gospel would have died with them….

    • carl jacobs

      Help me connect the dots, here, Len. How does a formalized ritualuzed official prayer once removed from any context of living faith help achieve any of those goals?

      • Nick

        I wonder if it may be the principle of the thing.

        • carl jacobs

          Nick

          But the principle is wrong. Wrong field. Wrong battle. It’s a fight over a meaningless external. The actual objective seems to be a demonstration of cultural dominance. Which is ironic since Christianity is anything but culturally dominant. As a matter of fact, one could get the impression that the external displays are desired precisely because they provide an illusion that covers the true stare of affairs.

          • Nick

            I agree Carl, but a lot of people are interested in this issue (if only because the secularists are against it). As you know there are a lot of people who believe that Christians are effectively in power or have privilege when the truth is far from that of Christian privilege for the ‘ordinary’ Christian. As a battle it may even be worth throwing (or ‘taking a dive’) simply because winning this one will not win us any brownie points with the British people. However, I am cautious in saying that because I know that some Christians feel that this is an important issue. And sometimes it is worth fighting for a principle. I’m undecided on it. It’s hard to defend the status quo, but would the alternative make things better?

          • Its not just a meaningless external, Carl. It helps keep the dimming light of faith flickering and may prompt reform in those who are lukewarm or who have fallen away from Christ. All those old hymns and exposure to sermons leave an impression on one’s heart and sometimes faith can be retriggered. It is also an overt statement we are a God fearing and God worshipping nation.

      • len

        You have made an assumption here about the qualityof a prayer and the ability of God to respond?.
        Beyond my pay grade to make such an assumption.

  • Britain is …. British. The established religion is …. Christianity. Let’s scrap all this religious ‘equality’ and give primacy to the faith of this nation. Ensure Christianity is protected by the law and that all significant civic events begin with an acknowledgement to our God and requests for His guidance in conducting our affairs. They do this is Russia whilst still permitting freedom of religion. Let’s do it here.

    Really, what’s the problem?

    • Nick

      The problem, in a nutshell, and on almost all levels, is that the prayers are not answered.

      • The Our Father is a good prayer and covers all situations, Nick.

        • Nick

          Weirdly it does seem to. But did Christ ever pray it?

          • Jesus taught it to us and that’s good enough for Happy Jack.

          • Nick

            Seems that Christ prayed a lot in private and ensured that everyone knew about that through the gospels.

          • Yes but He taught us to pray collectively too. Hence the “Our” and not “My” Father.

    • Exactly HJ.
      We’ll be a stronger more united and coherent country.
      The problem will be for those that want us to be in a state of confusion
      and chaos and weakness so that they might take over and control.

      • We need to stop apologising for our so called ‘intolerance’ and go on the offensive. We are not intolerant as Christians. It’s just that our faith is superior and we are entitled to maintain this nation as Christian and retain all the values, ways of life and cultural symbols associated with this.

        • ADT1969

          You’re obviously entitled to maintain your own values, but you have no rights over mine or any of the other 30 million non Christian residents of the UK, and for that, I am relieved

          • Relieved? Why what could you possibly have to fear from a nation based on Christianity? What are these values that oppose the Christian ones?

      • DanJ0

        Wishful thinking.

        Last week, as a result of a comment by my MP about her past voting record on SSM and her subsequent change of mind, one of the more vocal local Christians wrote a letter to the local paper saying, well, all the stuff we see down here regularly about it almost word for word. This week there were some outraged replies and a piece by the editor divorcing himself from the original views, explaining why he thought it important to publish such an offensive letter, and apologising for not publishing all the large number of critical replies. Apparently, he intends to publish a few more representative ones next week when he has some more space. On the one hand, I’m pleased that there’s such support from the general public these days, but on the other I’m uncomfortable that some readers don’t seem to think it appropriate that the original letter writer’s views should be aired at all. I don’t think many people realise that he was expressing Christian sexual morality, and a common view amongst vocal Christians and Christian political groups like the Christian Institute. I’m tempted to write in now to defend him! But anyway, I think the more people realise that Christianity in the UK has a distinct political agenda of its own instead of just being a background thing of Songs of Praise, Jam and Jerusalem, and nice old ladies, the more unpopular and the less tolerated it will become with the general public.

        • Oh yes, and just who were these ‘outraged’ persons who took pen to paper? And what were these views that so ‘offended’ them? Wouldn’t be the Christian view of morality and marriage by any chance, would it?

          Christianity is not an intolerant faith. It permits people to go their own way if they chose. What a Christian nation entails is laws reflecting its embedded beliefs and values. Behaviours and morals inconsistent with this faith will not be set up as ‘equal’ and given privileges and ‘rights’ in contradiction to this. All these man made laws ‘balancing’ different world views and sub-cultures need to be replaced by laws giving priority to and promoting Christian behaviours.

          Given a chance people in this country will understand that Christianity should not be put on a par with Islam and other faiths. They will understand too that family life proper is one man and one woman, together for life, raising their children and providing for their material and spiritual wellbeing. They will also understand that the economy has to be run for the benefit of all who are members of this nation. Minorities can go about their private business unhindered just so long as they do not threaten the common good.

          • DanJ0

            I was going to reproduce the letter here in full but it’s way too long when I look at it. So, here’s a synopsis:

            Sad to see MP support now for SSM. Appeal to human history regarding marriage. SSM is a continuation of ‘enlightened progress’ in recent decades which has been harmful. But people still do good deeds, which are part of British values. SSM is not. Marriage is now founded on love not complements, opening the door to polygamy, paedophilia and bestiality. Faithful straight marriage carries no risk of STIs, unlike alterative lifestyles. Alternative lifestyles likely to suffer detrimental outcomes. Children in them will be disadvantaged. This is what ‘enlightened progress’ means. Reputations in public life have been sullied, religious people have been abusing kids, sports people take drugs, people watch porn and swear. SSM is all part of this. Governments have promoted this degradation. Then he references the bible with a “By their fruits you will know them”, which is a bit odd because that refers to false religious people (like you Dodo), not secular people, and warns that for all their religious words they’ll be rejected in the end, but hey.

            As one can see, it echoes many comments about SSM here.

          • Thank you for going to the trouble of providing a precise of the letter. All fairly tame and not that controversial, though probably not written in a style to gain maximum positive impact.
            So who objected and why?

          • DanJ0

            Random local people, of different ages I’d guess, and sexes. One pulled apart his data and the inferences from it, and described his views as abhorrent and ignorant. One, a ‘miss’, described his views as 14th century ones. The editor recognised that they’d be seen by the majority of readers as extreme and tasteless. I think it was the paedophilia and bestiality thing that set them off most. Goodness knows what they’d make of you and your horse marriage thing. But anyway, this is why I think a switch to some sort of Christian nation and Christian basis for law (perhaps along the lines of what has just been voted on in Israel) is just pie in the sky in the UK.

          • “Goodness knows what they’d make of you and your horse marriage thing.”
            Ummm …. let Jack know the name of the paper and he’ll write in giving his views. (Just joking). One has to package the message according to the level of understanding audience, of course.

          • That’s pretty tame, he’s missed off his list Trans-humanism! With the current cries from animal rights lobbyists to give animals rights and treat them as humans, one will not only be able to marry the horse,but be able to produce offspring with it as well.. A trans-human. Now that is so vile, disgusting and dangerous, but that’s where SSM is leading us down the slippery slope.

          • DanJ0

            “Now that is so vile, disgusting and dangerous, but that’s where SSM is leading us down the slippery slope of ‘enlghtened progress'”
            That’s hysterical and risible nonsense, not even worthy of the Daily Mail.

          • If it’s in the Daily Mail God help us, they’ll normalise it!

            It’s true Danj0 SSM has opened the door, it has fired these groups with sick hopes. If homosexuals can marry and have children and become normalised they think they can too. There are petitions now circulating round to sign to support giving animals human rights! I’ve told some where to go.

            look up transhumanism on YouTube too. Some researchers want to breed humans with animals’ eyes that can see in the dark with a view to creating a supper soldier and other such stuff.

          • Bluesman1950

            Transhumans, crossbreeding with horses! You don’t know a great deal about biology do you!

          • Researchers into transhumanism are looking to take attributes from animals such as cats that have night vision, and breed a human cross cat with the eventuality of creating transhumans that will be able to see in the dark with a view to creating a super soldier. I don’t think personally that this should be an avenue that sience should go down.

          • Bluesman1950

            Not quite your idea of marrying a horse and having babies is it!

          • Almost. 🙂

          • Bluesman1950

            Like having a tooth filling is almost the same as a head transplant. Not at all really.

          • No,
            I was thinking more along the lines of Tesco beefburgers! Lol
            Strong men that could run like Red Rum!

        • Danj0 as a homosexual I think you should write in to that paper and voice your concerns about the erosion of free speech. Defend the Christians’ right to say what they have to even though you don’t agree with it. Go on set a good example. I would think it is the duty of all newspaper editors to remain neutral, after-all, it’s not the editors views but the readers’ that count, the editor is only the medium through which views can be aired. They should publish views from all sorts of people who read their papers. That’s what makes them interesting and thought provoking.

          Christianity in the UK became unpopular because it was seen as restrictive,unnecessary and outmoded by the 1970’s, and after the invention of the pill and women’s new found “freedoms”. White British society had reached a pinnacle of civilisation by about the late 50’s and was
          busy assimilating smaller amounts of black Christians. But, as enormous waves of immigrants from all over the world have descended upon us over the decades, we have slid into terrible decline and our Christian values and morals have been pushed aside.

          People are like children in a way, we need to be guided. Christianity is like a loving but strict parent that puts the brakes on our otherwise wild and destructive ways which are detrimental to the prosperity of humanity. Christianity doesn’t have a political agenda other than to teach us morals and better ways to keep us safe and on
          track to be decent human beings.

          It might seem like it has a political agenda at the moment because we have been heading in the opposite direction for so long. Our morals have gone down the pan, greed and corruption are rife, minors are
          being abused like nothing before, slavery is back albeit in a
          slightly different form, and the white population is in decline. I
          think we need hauling back on track again don’t you?

          • DanJ0

            I’m still thinking about writing in to defend the airing of his views, though obviously not the content of them. The previous editor of the paper had a thing about new age stuff, including the paranormal, and wrote editorials about it. The paper was happy to publish also sorts of letters and stuff, so it was and is hardly censoring. He also gave lots of space to a local evangelical vicar who was convinced witches covens were plotting to bring down planes by hanging dead crows on trees in the flight path, and were trying to kill him in his sleep with spells for speaking out about them (I think he had acid reflux or bad sleep apnea myself). He’s the one that used to write in telling Muslims and homosexuals that they’d burn in hell. He’s retired now, much to his bishop’s relief.

          • Well don’t take too long thinking about it otherwise the moment will pass. As I see it a newspaper belongs to everyone not just the editor and readers make up their own minds about what others write. I’m with you on the acid reflux and sleep apnea conclusion. lol.

          • DanJ0

            I’m not much of a fan of paternalism, myself. Moreover, I know enough about Ireland in the past under the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church not to want religious people and organisations controlling community life and determining how the rest of us should live.

          • No, I know they were rather extreme but things have swung too far the other way now. We need a happy medium.

    • carl jacobs

      Jack

      That’s a consistent position. But no more whining about intolerance, please.

      • Nick

        No Christian has ever whined. Every perceived whine and whinge has always been a valid complaint in every circumstance ever. Only the rich and powerful whinge, complain and rant. Some people even get paid for it.

        • carl jacobs

          You can’t say “Those Non-Christians are so intolerant of Christians trying to establish Christian predominance.” That’s whining.

          • Nick

            Stop whining about Christians making valid complaints. Joke.

          • Agreed. Active assertion is called for and not this weak kneed complaining.

      • With the repeal of the EU equality legislation and all the human rights laws giving equivalence to minorities, protected groups, other faiths and world views, along with Uncle Tom Cobley and all, there’ll be nothing to complain about. Christianity will be the bench-mark as it has been for generations. It’ll be the secularists, atheists and associated oddballs who’ll be whinging.

        We’ll be tolerant. We just will not be “equal”.

        Christianity will however, have to get its collective act together.

    • Bluesman1950

      Go to Tower Hamlets, where Islamic extremists will tell you that “This is a Muslim area.” and try to stop ‘unislamic practices like drinking or not wearing ‘appropriate’ clothing. I don’t know if they start council meetings with readings from the koran, but that would be the equivalent.

      Would you feel happy if another group was allowed thus to impose its religion on you on the grounds of some supposed superiority? Neither do I. Religion should be kept entirely out of the sphere of public life and left to individuals, in their own time.

  • Nick

    The national secular society is actively uniting its supporters to write to their MPs over this issue. http://www.secularism.org.uk/council-prayers.html

    And we simply fight and brow-beat each other. If you feel strongly over this issue then write to your MP in support of the bill (it is at second reading and needs to go to committee stage and then a third reading so there is still time to influence your prayerless MP).

    But even if the bill is defeated and prayers are taken out of councils (or even the Commons) people will see that and sympathise with our complaints.

    How effective are the prayers of councillors and politicians in public compared to those of normal Christians in secret? We are way too out of touch (obviously I speak for myself).

  • Nick

    Have you ever gone to a church and been curious enough to look through the prayer requests that people in crisis make? Sometimes these prayers are put into bowls or pinned to noticeboards. It is heartbreaking if you take the time to read them. They make prayers for help for grief and really terrible crisis situations. Who is to say that God doesn’t hear these prayers? Who is to say that God favours the prayer of a councillor or leader over those of a Muslim kid or an immigrant? Near where I live there used to be a Christmas tree which was adorned with prayers and remembrance for people who had died at Christmas (mostly from non-Christians). They’ve changed the tree this year and not allowed the prayers. It’s just heartbreaking what people go through but we just see the surface. Having said that some people really are arses (I speak for myself of course). But who is to say that God doesn’t prefer the prayers of those people over arses like me (or councillors)?

  • len

    The thing here is not whether we think a prayer might be affective or not but the ability to pray…the freedom to offer up a prayer whether God responds to that prayer or not is totally out of our hands..and not the point in question.
    In fact who can stop anyone praying?
    What can they do..imprison us?…kill us? (in Muslim Countries this is probably happening to Christians as we speak) There were more Christians killed in the last Century than all Centuries combined.
    Secularists and anti Christian religions want to silence Christians and stop the preaching of the Gospel and can only do so if we let them.
    Fear and intimidation are being used worldwide to silence Christians whether by by the sword or the more subtle means of Political Correctness the objective is the same.

    More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined [christianity.com]
    It is claimed that 105,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year [Deseret News, 2011]
    Currently over 100 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide [Reuters, 2013]
    70 percent of the world’s population lives in a religiously intolerant environment [Pew Forum, 2011]
    North Korea: in 2014 it continues to be the worst country in the world for persecution
    Nigeria: In 2010 Christians suffered terror from Muslim extremists. Whole village massacred
    Iran: Its parliament believes Muslims who change their faith should be put to death
    India: up to 70,000 in Orissa have been forced to flee their homes in riots against Christians
    Indonesia: Between 2000-2002 Muslims slaughtered 10,000 Christians
    Iraq: half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein
    Egypt: Under Islamist pressure, Coptic Christians are being forced from their homes
    Syria: By 2012, most of the 80,000 Christians in Homs had been ‘cleansed’ from their homes
    Europe: persecution is coming in by stealth through EU equality directives

    • DanJ0

      “Secularists and anti Christian religions want to silence Christians and stop the preaching of the Gospel and can only do so if we let them.”

      Lying doesn’t help your cause.

      • Nick

        There was no lie. Christian prayer is actively silenced in many professions – perhaps most notably in the NHS. Prayers from doctors or nurses to patients have resulted in legal action against them. Whether such prayers should take place is another issue and for the conscience of the individual Christian. But a lot of Christians feel very wary of asking ‘Can I pray for you?’ in any situation. This concern is real.

        Councillors may be pedantic enough to want to retain their freedom to pray should they so choose. Maybe they should say the sinners prayer? Repeatedly.

        • DanJ0

          There is nothing inherent in secularism at all that attempts to silence Christians and stop them preaching. In as much as I’m a secularist myself, I support the right to freedom of religion in Article 9 the ECHR. I expect most secularists do. That doesn’t give the religious complete freedom anytime and anywhere, of course, but intelligent people realise that. Len’s just smearing us with lies to support his own agenda, bless him.

          • Nick

            Then why are secularists opposing the supposed freedom of councillors to pray in public in council sessions? It will be one less thing for them to be allowed to do. Poor souls.

          • DanJ0

            Such times / places are part of the State, of course. Duh.

          • Nick

            How far do you extend this principle? Does the eradication of all things of faith apply to the NHS (with its state links) and the BBC programming schedule? It does doesn’t it? It also applies to state linked BBC Christian output? Does it apply to army chaplains (state linked) and NHS chaplains (state linked). The Lords Spiritual are gone I suppose? And where then? I believe that citizens themselves may be state linked.

          • DanJ0

            If the NHS favours Christians over Muslims then I’m afraid something will need to be done. Similarly with other State services, including schools I’d say. Clearly the Lords Spiritual need to go, as does the establishment of the CofE. In theory anyway, as secularism goes.

            But hey, this is not what Len was claiming. He said secularists want to silence Christians and stop them preaching their religion. That simply isn’t true, except in certain circumstances related to the State.

            Please, feel free to attend church daily if you like. Put up dayglo signs outside churches. Add metallic fish symbols or bible quotes to your car bumpers. Sing carols at Christmas. Put leaflets through people’s doors. Wear woolly jumpers and grow beards. Set up stalls in city centres if you like. It’s all fine.

          • Nick

            And does secularism make you any less prone to making stereotypes? Or is that an optional extra?

          • DanJ0

            Feel free to look secularism up on Wikipedia if you like. The point of contention here is whether secularists want to silence Christians and stop them preaching their religion. Is that true, Nick?

          • Nick

            Apparantly not. Apart from in schools. Colleges. The BBC. Councils. Parish councils. County councils. Government. The Lords. The army. The NHS. The civil service. Jobcentres. Health clinics. The police force. Apart from these places (and maybe a few others) we can grow beards and wear woolly jumpers to our heart’s content. Hallelujah!

          • DanJ0

            It is blatantly not true, no matter how wise as a dove and innocent as a serpent one or two people wish to be about it. Whilst it is not within the scope of secularism as a political theory, lots of private companies also draw the line at their employees proselytising on company premises. My employer does. Though it provides a ‘quiet room’ for religious observances, and accommodates requests for time off for religious attendance where it can. Article 9 does not grant a right to complete religious freedom and a duty on everyone else to allow it, as any fool used to know not so long ago.

          • Nick

            Article 10 (ECHR) – Freedom of expression
            1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
            If the ECHR is your ‘Bible’ then how can you dismiss article 10 when it comes to mere words in places?

          • DanJ0

            The ECHR sets out a relationship between an individual and the State. It’s not my bible. If you think that Article 10 gives someone the right to proselytise at work, including when the State is the employer, then you probably need to read around the subject.

          • Nick

            I can’t speak about the right to evangelise those I am providing a service for as I do not engage in that as a conscience issue. What I maintain is my right to evangelise those I work with – i.e. work colleagues. And when it comes to the wider context, to reading around the rights – what do you mean? Are you suggesting that Christianity really is taboo in society after all? Or do you mean something else?

          • DanJ0

            “What I maintain is my right to evangelise those I work with – i.e. work colleagues.”

            Well, good luck with that if you have a private employer.

            “And when it comes to the wider context, to reading around the rights – what do you mean?”

            Simply that Article 10 puts positive and negative duties on the State but they’re mainly to do with maintaining an environment in society where ideas can be freely exchanged. The courts interpret it case by case but it doesn’t oblige the State to guarantee that ideas can be expressed and exchanged anywhere and at any time. It’s primarily intended to prevent State censorship of ideas, using its power and reach to do so. That ideas can’t necessarily be exchanged loudly in a public library, or during work time in a private company, or on someone else’s personal blog is not State censorship.

          • Nick

            So when the courts decide that a Christian nurse has no right to wear the cross in a hospital it is a health and safety issue and not covered by freedom of expression or any other right? No ‘flair’ allowed then huh?

            Or when some councillors muttering incomprehensible prayers to protect their own backsides and their own agendas in council meetings it is nothing to do with freedom of expression? In fact if any councillor were to dare to even mention God he would not be protected by the rights and action could be brought against him or her? I would be all for bringing them before the EU of course.

            But I’m not convinced it stops there.

          • DanJ0

            Christians can manifest their religion outside the workplace well enough. Orthodox Sikhs on the other hand don’t really have a choice in the workplace. There’s a trade off with the latter, hence the exceptions in H&S law. We seem to be moving towards granting employment rights for religious whims now, fought for almost as a matter of principle, and I doubt it’s going to end well for anyone. Which is what I’ve been pointing out regarding this Bill, trivial though it is when it stands on its own.

          • Nick

            How is it a religious whim to share faith or pray – they are practically core elements of the Christian faith? I was totally on the fence on this whole issue before you persuaded me that stopping prayers in council meetings is part of a bigger agenda.

          • DanJ0

            “How is it a religious whim to share faith or pray – they are practically core elements of the Christian faith?”

            My employer provides a ‘quiet room’ for people to pray on work premises, though it’s not a right that they do so. I’m employed to do engineering, not to lead sermons or admonish sinners. Not being able to do those things is not preventing you manifesting your religious beliefs if you were an engineer. There’s plenty of opportunity for you to do that in your own time and in your own space, which includes public-private space such as at the roadside if you like.

          • Nick

            Such freedom.

          • DanJ0

            We probably have more freedom in the UK than almost anywhere in the world. I think perhaps you need to travel more to realise how lucky you are to live here, at this time.

            Entire Christian families being shot in the face or crucified in Syria simply for being Christian. A Christian nurse pursuing litigation for not being able to wear a cross at work in the UK. Hmm.

          • Nick

            But things could be so much better here and I won’t let you put my people down.

          • DanJ0

            Blimey. Have you been watching The Ten Commandments on TV today, or something? How dramatic! Heh

          • Nick

            Sorry Dan, I got carried away. Thanks for the debate, I have learned a lot. By the way, I do share your belief that the C of E should separate from the state. Seriously, thanks.

          • ” I do share your belief that the C of E should separate from the state>
            This debate has persuaded Jack otherwise. We are a Christian State and we should preserve this. An established Church is an asset in the war aged on our Christian culture and faith. Once you leave the expression of Christian values in our nation to secular laws, such as equality legislation and human rights, you give everyone equivalence. All sorts of behaviours and practices become protected under the law and religion get pushed to the side-lines.
            A generation ago it would have been unthinkable for a Christian private business to be hauled before a court for refusing two homosexual men a double room. Or for a Christian private business to be taken to court for refusing to bake a cake with a homosexual message on it. Wearing a cross at work wouldn’t be an issue. Now we are granted ‘rights’ provided those of all faiths and none are granted similar ‘rights’ and where there is a clash then a secular court decides. People of faith who object on the grounds of conscience to participating in abortion or teaching certain sexual ethics and practices are wrong, will be unemployable. And increasingly speaking your mind will land you in trouble with the police.
            No. It’s time to scrap all these anti-Christian laws and regain control of our nation.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Is that the one where Charlton Heston takes his top off?

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Ah, then you approve of persecution-lite?

          • DanJ0

            A nurse not being allowed to wear a cross at work is not persecution. It’s not even close to persecution. Heck, it’s barely a spat. How does something as trivial as that become the subject of litigation other than through the machinations of a political pressure group?

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            ah then you would support a burkha ban?

          • DanJ0

            I support the right of an employer to say no to a employee asking or expecting to wear one.

          • Royinsouthwest

            You say you are employed to do engineering. Does that mean that when you are at work, including your lunch period and coffee breaks, if any, you never talk about anything except engineering and work related matters?

          • DanJ0

            No. However, we’re discouraged from talking about politics or religion in a way which may make people feel uncomfortable, or lead to heated discussions a break down in work relationships. It’s a fine line at times. One of my colleagues went on a hajj pilgrimage last year. There was no problem asking about his trip, or his telling us about his trip.

          • Royinsouthwest

            I agree that it would be counterproductive, and bad manners, to try and insist on talking about religion to someone who is obviously not interested or not listening, just as it would be to talk about football, cricket, rugby, rap music, East Enders or Celebrity Big Brother to someone who hasn’t the faintest interest in such matters.

            However, if there were two colleagues one of whom had no interest in religion but was genuinely interested in the social problems of the area, and the other colleague was working with an organisation like Street Pastors or the Salvation Army it would be rather churlish of the first person to say that the second should not say anything about the work they had been involved with because the work was performed by a religious organisation.

          • DanJ0

            That’s more or less the same example.

          • sarky

            And what about my right as a colleague not to be evangelised to? Out of work thats fine, you can do what you want, but there must be a line in the sand. The workplace has rules in place with regards to bullying and harassment that could makes your life very difficult very quickly and so it should. As you will have seen in the press, people are not afraid to bring cases against others who seek to impose their ideology.

          • Graham Goldsmith

            There is a difference between ”Propose” and ”impose” An exchange of views so long as it is mutual should not be regarded as bullying or harassment. Whats wrong with saying ” i dont wish to talk about religion”. Whats wrong with disagreeing without rancour. Using rights as a first off lends to intolerance.

          • Bluesman1950

            Would you be ok with me going around your workplace pointing out, uninvited, that there probably is no god and that belief in imaginary friends is unsupported superstition? Probably not. So I don’t, I just think it. Why can’t the religious show the same consideration?

          • Royinsouthwest

            Do you think Article 10 gives anyone the right to promote LGBT “rights” at work?

          • DanJ0

            The employer is bound by employment law. I’d say it’s up to the employer if it wishes to allow staff to promote issues during work time. I’d rather just get on with my work myself, and I prefer my colleagues to do the same. When one is at work, I think one should adopt a work role.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            What I don’t quite fathom is how a body that did not exist prior to the second world war can now assume the authority to ‘grant’ rights to people…were we asked? consulted? What happened to Common Law and the rights we have enjoyed since time immemorial?

          • Graham Goldsmith

            In the main these are conversations about God by consent. You cannot really limit the scope of conversations anywhere let alone in the workplace. If a person objects they should say so and if the religious person persists, at that point it becomes proselytising and action should be taken. No point in offending somebody who is not interested. The word proselytise like ”evangelise” has become emotive but also a political football and the right to be free from religion is as unrealistic as the right to be free from advertising. Its a shame when people are reported or disciplined for what seem like mutually agreeable conversations. This is where invoking offence under the banner of rights can be very negative .

          • Graham Goldsmith

            Trevor Phillips of the EHRC has been quoted as saying that people of religion should keep their views behind the temple door.

          • Royinsouthwest

            The Equality and Human Rights Commission is partly responsible for creating the state of affairs in which police officers and local government officials thought it better to allow many hundreds of girls to be raped in different English cities over a period of more than 20 years rather than be called “racist.”

            Despite that the EHRC and its officials have, so far, managed to avoid even the slightest criticism in the media or Parliament. It is high time that Trevor Phillips and the rest of the EHRC ware held to account for the damage they have caused.

          • William Lewis

            “The Equality and Human Rights Commission is partly responsible for creating the state of affairs in which police officers and local government officials thought it better to allow many hundreds of girls to be raped in different English cities over a period of more than 20 years rather than be called “racist.””

            Quite. A state of affairs that stinks to high heaven. This is the fruit of the essentially amoral (or at least arbitrarily moral) hierarchy of “human rights”. And, ultimately, this is what the dead hand of secularism has to offer.

          • DanJ0

            Trevor Phillips ought to join a regulatory body called OfTwat, which has nothing at all to do with water.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Or Ofsod (Office for the Suppression of Democracy)…

          • carl jacobs

            This is the correct issue. It’s not about silencing but about isolation. Pay attention to the fine detail in this sentence:

            one that neither advantages nor disadvantages people because of their religion or lack of it.

            There is no desire to disadvantage religious people. There is a great desire to disadvantage religious ideas. A religious person can get along just fine – so long as he packs his religion away in a neat corner wherever he contacts the unbelieving world.

            Take for example religious ideas of personhood. That is something they want driven far away from the Law. Why? Because with those ideas would come obligations they don’t want to carry. So in the absense of religious ideas, what they do we substitute? Well, the Secularist – who is ever so neutral about religion – has a boatload of ideas that will fit the bill. And all if them presume the truth if materialism one way or another.

            This is how pretensions of neutrality end up establishing irreligion.

          • Is the Monarch still part of our State? Next you’ll be saying the Queen shouldn’t be so Christian in her behaviour as it is a manifestation of both direct and indirect discrimination towards other faiths.

          • len

            Quite revealing that you have had to lower whatever integrity you had to resort to mud slinging Danjo?.

        • Bluesman1950

          I would be very concerned if the medical professional treating me also believed in the magical intercession of imaginary friends, rather than, or in addition to, proper medical treatment.

          Would you want a Muslim or Pastafarian trying to impose their superstitions on you when you are ill and relying on their medical skill?

          Councillors are welcome to pray in their own time, or even silently to themselves during council meetings, if they really feel the need. It is not part of the meeting and should not be.

          • Nick

            I would consider it holistic medicine.

          • Bluesman1950

            Like homeopathy perhaps. More mumbo-jumbo.

      • len

        And slurs don`t help yours….At least use a proper argument….

        • DanJ0

          A proper argument exists below for all to see. I’m quite pleased with it actually. It was a fair exchange of views in each direction.

    • dannybhoy

      The wonderful and worship inspiring thing about the Gospel is that when it is preached by humble, passionate and dedicated Christians, God steps in and touches lives and transforms societies.
      That in my opinion is how our country has become such a respected and desired destination for so many people.
      People (conveniently|) forget now it all came about. They only care about what it offers and think that somehow the gods they worshipped can co-exist with the God whom we acknowledge..

      Ist book of Shm’uel, perak hamesh..

      “1 When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.”

  • len

    Quite revealing to take a look at the ‘British Humanist Association ‘
    The have a’ theology,’ they also have an agenda and its not a liberal one (at least where Christianity is involved) One might almost say Humanism is a’ religion’ as many humanists treat it with reverence and pay homage to its creators.
    I have nothing against’ humanism’ if people want to follow a fruitless’ religion’ based on an ideology created out of a desire to deny God that is entirely their business but leave me alone to pray to the Creator of the Universe without trying to silence me if i do so in public….
    Take a look at this which gives a bit more detail of the humanist predicament

    http://www.beyondweird.com/occult/othr11.html

    • Bluesman1950

      I take it that you have put ‘theology’ in inverted commas, because they actually have no such thing,

      You also say that “One might almost say Humanism is a’ religion'”. One might almost say that baldness is a hairstyle, but one might sound just as daft. Odd that the commonest insults theists can throw at humanism or atheism is that they are religions, as if we are just as bad as you.

      Humanists do not revere anything or pay homage to anyone. I agree with, e.g. Richard Dawkins, but I do not revere him or pay homage to him. Just because the religious appear to be able to see thought only in those obsequious contexts does not mean that we are all followers of a ‘religion’.

      The weird rant to which you link casts little light on anything except the strange ideas of the christian ranter responsible for it.