Prayers off the agenda for St Albans council

PRAYERS will no longer be compulsory for district councillors in St Albans after a decision to stop the tradition.

Last night, Wednesday July 11, St Albans district councillors debated for nearly an hour about whether to continue with the nearly 40-year-old tradition of including prayers in the agenda for full council.

They voted 34-13 to no longer have prayers as part of the agenda at meetings for full council, but to have a separate session for prayers just beforehand, which councillors can choose to attend or not.

The debate was initiated following a High Court ruling in February this year against Bideford town council, brought by the National Secular Society, that the saying of prayers as part of a council meeting is not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972.

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has advised parish councils to obey the high court ruling.

Council officers said that enquiries with other district and county councils showed that none in Herts say prayers as part of the formal agenda.

Last night’s debate had most councillors up on their feet speaking about the issue, with some saying that as St Albans is a cathedral city, the tradition should continue, as those who do not pray could instead use the session as a “time to reflect”.

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Some councillors said it was important St Albans was seen to have a “tolerant” council, inclusive to all.

Other said they were atheist, and that it might no longer be appropriate to include the prayer on the formal part of the agenda, given not all shared the same faith.

More details in next week’s Herts Ad.