Friday, February 10, 2012

Eric Pickles insists that councils may pray

His Grace is delighted that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government agrees with him on the issue of statutory permission and prohibition. Speaking after the judgement restricting council prayers, Eric Pickles said:
"This ruling is surprising and disappointing.

"While welcoming and respecting fellow British citizens who belong to other faiths, we are a Christian country, with an established Church in England, governed by the Queen.

"Christianity plays an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation. Public authorities - be it Parliament or a parish council - should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish.

"The right to worship is a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty.

"The Localism Act now gives councils a general power of competence - which allows them to undertake any general action that an individual could do unless it is specifically prohibited by law. Logically, this includes prayers before meetings."
Section 111 of the 1972 Local Government Act is HERE, and the 2011 Localism Act general power of competence HERE. If, as Mr Pickles says, the prayer competence is a matter of simple logic, His Grace looks forward to the appeal. If Bideford Town Council wish His Grace to open his collection plate for the relief of their local council tax payers, he would be delighted to do so.

99 Comments:

Blogger Melvin Cragsbury (a pseudonym) said...

The drip, drip effect has been separating church from state for over 200n years. This is just the latest drip.

My view:
http://howdidwecometothis.blogspot.com/2012/02/are-we-christian-country.html

10 February 2012 at 13:14  
Blogger Dan said...

Pickles ought to do his homework and read the judgement before he starts talking irrelevantly out of his hat.

The judgement does not restrict prayers *before* council meetings, only those during them.

Nor in fact did the complainants seek to prevent prayers *before* council meetings.

10 February 2012 at 13:30  
Blogger David B said...

I've been following the comments on the BBC website, and made a couple of my own.

I think the judgement was right, and hence Pickles is wrong, for a number of reasons.

I'd point out that local government is paid for by the taxpayer, and I don't see it as appropriate that taxpayers should pay for prayer.

I'd further point out that it does not infringe on the rights of Christians, who are at liberty to pray silently as they wish, and are at liberty to meet for prayer on their own time.

To finish, is it not remarkable that so many Christians are either ignorant of or blithely ignore the reported teaching of Christ as written in Matt 6 5-6?

'And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.'

10 February 2012 at 13:38  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

@David B ... " I don't see it as appropriate that taxpayers should pay for prayer."

Tax payers "pay for prayers" all the time ... every day in parliament, in school assemblies, at Royal Weddings, at coronations, in prison & hospital chapels, in the armed forces ...

Mr Pickles is exactly right.

And the scriptures you quote do not revoke the idea of corporate prayer. If that is the case I presume you think that there should be no prayers of intercession at church services either?

An utterly ludicrous & scandalous ruling. All the more sickening to hear people using scripture to justify it!

I will happily contribute to Cranmer's collection towards the appeal

10 February 2012 at 13:59  
Blogger Albert said...

David,

Isn't the point that it is up to the democratically elected members of a council to decide this? Given how often councillors attend religious events in the community as a matter of course, if a member of the council is so upset by it, it follows that he is unable to fulfil his role in the community. If that's his attitude, he needs to be open about the fact that he cannot participate in many community events and wishes to over-turn the democratic decision of the rest of the council to have prayers. Then he will presumably be deselected by the people at the next election.

10 February 2012 at 14:02  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

And as Ruth Gledhill points out, presumably this outlaws the singing of the national anthem - or is it OK to sing prayers?

10 February 2012 at 14:06  
Blogger David B said...

@ Rebel Saint

The taxpayer does indeed pay for prayer in many other contexts.

It should not.

The National Anthem is an outrage. It should be changed, and the sooner the better. I don't participate, though I will sometimes attempt the Welsh one.

@Albert. The question of what democratically elected councils should be able to do is perhaps better illustrated in America, where the constitution is often at odds with what some local institutions want to do.

Is it not incumbent on Councils to use their resources wisely, and does favouring one religions prayers over those of any others or none constitute a wise use of taxpayers money?

I think not.

10 February 2012 at 14:23  
Blogger David B said...

Oh, and I would have though Matt 6 pretty clear.

And, hey, isn't getting an appeal together in direct contradiction of Matt 6 34?

David B

10 February 2012 at 14:29  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@David B: Isn't the issue of localism that councils may choose how to spend their time and money without central oversight?

This must, by necessity, include undertaking actions with which people do not agree. What I may think is wise is foolishness to another person; the same is true for your views. So long as people are not forced to undertake actions contrary to their conscience, if there is a majority agreement, I don't really see the justification for your line of argument.

Counsellors are always democratically accountable. If you don't like their position on corporate prayer, campaign against them at election time.

10 February 2012 at 14:33  
Blogger Albert said...

David B,

Can you tell me precisely how much tax payers' money it costs to have prayers at the beginning of a council meeting?

where the constitution is often at odds with what some local institutions want to do.

The comparison is a little difficult. Which bit of the British Constitution outlaws democratically elected councils deciding whether or not to have prayers? Is it the bit where the Queen is anointed with Holy Oil?

10 February 2012 at 14:41  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Incidentally, that you're reading Matthew 6:5-8 as a prohibition on public prayer rather than an exhortation to earnest and personal communion with God is perhaps indicative of a legalistic mentality that I hadn't previously associated with you.

What do you think Jesus is doing when he gives the Lord's Prayer in the succeeding verses? Is that not the communal prayer par excellence? Jesus himself prayed publically when he performed the miracle of Lazarus' resurection, that the crowd might know his power came from God (John 11:41-44). (I might add: Matthew 14:13-23; Mark 6:32-46; Luke 9:10-18; John 6:1-15) We should always take care to ensure that public prayer is not hypocritical, and that it is not the only time we pray. But that's hardly the same as insisting that we are forbidden to do so.

As to Matthew 6:34; I wholeheartedly commend it to you when read with the preceding verse: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and these things [material needs] will be given to you also. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I think that beginning a Council session with a consideration of what is good and righteous, rather than what is materially or politically expedient sounds like quite a good idea to me.

Again, understanding this as a prohibition on planning for the future, seems peculiarly legalistic.

10 February 2012 at 14:47  
Blogger Albert said...

understanding this as a prohibition on planning for the future, seems peculiarly legalistic

a bit like this judgment against council prayers then.

10 February 2012 at 14:58  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Albert: The law has the advantage of being legalistic by nature. It's a stupid ruling, inasmuch as it withholds power from local authorities to manage their own affairs (or indeed, their own agenda for meetings). In that sense it does encourage (well, I suppose "enforces" is a more appropriate word) a legalistic outlook, which is indeed daft.

10 February 2012 at 15:02  
Blogger Albert said...

The law has the advantage of being legalistic by nature

It does, Belfast, except that this ruling is particularly legalistic:

'is no statutory power permitting the practice to continue'.

I thought that in a free society, things were permitted, unless they were prohibited, not the other way around. It's a potentially chilling judgment.

10 February 2012 at 15:09  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Open your collection plate?

NO!

Instead, let some good Christian QC offer his or her services pro bono. Surely someone would be willing to forego theIR £100k plus daily fee for the cause of their faith and reward in heaven?

10 February 2012 at 15:18  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

A total storm in a tea-cup. The matter could and should have been amicably sorted out before wasting taxpayers money on expensive Court fees.

If this is an example of how due diligence of civic responsibilities is being delivered in Bideford it is a piss-poor show all round.

10 February 2012 at 16:26  
Blogger David B said...

In reply to various people, I agree that it is silly to take a literal view of many bible passages.

Yet I do see people taking such literal views when it suits them, not just in the more extreme evangelist New Earth Creationist denominations, but also in more mature churches in discussions like the meaning of marriage, the ills or otherwise of homosexuality, the role of women in the church.....


Back to the immediate issue at hand, let us be clear that the ruling does not ban pre-meeting joint prayers by people who wish to be participants.

The cost of such prayers could be calculated by knowing the cost of the meetings, in salaries, heating, allowances etc, seeing what percentage of the meeting time is spent in prayer, and doing a simple sum.

The question of how autonomous local councils should be in how they spend their time is a real one.

On the one hand I wouldn't want too much interference in that, on the other hand I wouldn't want them to spend some percentage of a meeting in having a sing-song.

That they should spend the time at council meetings discussing council business seems reasonable enough to me.

Excluding those who don't want to participate in prayers, or making them suffer in silence, does not seem to me an appropriate use of councillors time.

David B

10 February 2012 at 16:39  
Blogger Albert said...

The matter could and should have been amicably sorted out before wasting taxpayers money on expensive Court fees.

Quite, Dreadnaught. The Councillors will simply say their prayers before the statutory part of the meeting begins. But the secularists will say it was worth it "for the principle".

10 February 2012 at 16:40  
Blogger Albert said...

David,

The cost of such prayers could be calculated by knowing the cost of the meetings, in salaries, heating, allowances etc, seeing what percentage of the meeting time is spent in prayer, and doing a simple sum.

In my experience, the prayers take hardly any time (it is hard to see that real heating and lighting time would be saved by abolishing them). Councillors do not have salaries, the number of paid officers that are there is negligible and they are not paid by the minute anyway. The Chaplain one presumes give his/her time free of charge, but having him there doubtless builds another link with the community. In short, I don't think it costs councils anything, but it does bring some benefits, even supposing there is no benefit of having a moment of quiet reflection or that God might answer the prayers. It's just possible that they save time, as they call everyone to order, which some mayors one suspects might struggle to do very quickly otherwise. The "tax-payers' money" argument fails utterly.

I don't think anyone is having a go at you for literalism as such (you're the only person to have used that term), just for misinterpreting the Bible.

10 February 2012 at 16:47  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Paragraph 18 of the Judgement is quite interesting. Presumably in a place like Leicester where the majority of the councillors could be Muslim, they may choose to offer prayers to Allah instead.

"18. As the prayers at Bideford Town Council were always Christian, or occasionally Quaker led, the same arguments would apply to the effect on persons of other religious beliefs as well as those who had no beliefs. Indeed, the same arguments would apply were the prayers of another religion to be said at the meetings of other Councils to the discomfort of Christians, members of other religions, or of those who had no religious beliefs at all."

10 February 2012 at 17:02  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo: "Instead, let some good Christian QC offer his or her services pro bono. Surely someone would be willing to forego theIR £100k plus daily fee for the cause of their faith and reward in heaven?"

How about Paul Diamond? Not sure if he's a Christian but he's often associated with cases like this. Perhaps the Christian Institute could even take the case onboard in their highly successful campaign against these various challenges to religious privilege?

10 February 2012 at 17:21  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: On the basis of the argument I've made above, I wouldn't dispute that a Council dominated by Muslims would be able to table an Imam coming to hold prayers. Again, as with the Christian prayers in Bideford, I would expect neither compulsion or censure towards those who did not wish to participate.

Likewise, if someone wanted to make a case for a period of reflection led by a humanist, I wouldn't have any problem if it was clear that there was agreement to do so.

@David B: I might express it like this: I hold to the truth of the Scripture you quoted without diminishing its authority in the same way that I hold to the truth of Scripture used in other debates. I've also argued in other debates about being wary about legalistic interpretations, on the basis that it is these from which inconsistency very often stems. But that's true of practically any piece of literature: it becomes paradoxical the minute you insist on reductive forms of interpretation.

All that said, if you still feel that I haven't well represented Scripture in my replies above, I'd welcome your own interpretation and understanding about how they fit into Scripture as a whole.

On the issue: I really want to say that Councils will probably do less harm having a sing-song than "getting down to business", but in the sense that you mean, yes I'd rather they didn't abuse their positions at the expense of the taxpayer. The comments I've made in response to DanJ0 should make it clear, though, that judgement on whether the activity of councillors is wasteful should ultimately be the prerogative of the electorate, and not the courts.

It's worth mentioning too, that the decision seems to throw out the idea that secularists are being compelled to "suffer in silence"; the ruling is closer to the effect that the efficacy of prayer, not being a matter that can satisfactorily be resolved in court cannot be included in the purview of activities which councils are authorised to address.

10 February 2012 at 17:22  
Blogger David B said...

@Albert.

Some of the councillors will no doubt say prayers before meetings, as was suggested to them before the case. That's fine by everyone, I think

@DanJO I gather the Christian Institute was already involved, and has indemnified Bideford's costs.

@Belfast. Comment posts on blogs like this, as I've said before, do not fit well on venues like this, IMV. I would be happy to take it up with you in a discussion board format.

I compliment you on being among the most thoughtful and courteous people here who take views opposed to mine.

I provide a link to the thread on this subject on my discussion board.

It contains statements from the NSS and Terry Sanderson, the NSS president.

Both look so reasonable to me that it is hard for me to understand how people would see them as unreasonable, but no doubt some of those who read them will do so.

10 February 2012 at 17:41  
Blogger Albert said...

Belfast & David,

On the basis of the argument I've made above, I wouldn't dispute that a Council dominated by Muslims would be able to table an Imam coming to hold prayers.

Agreed, the argument was pretty daft in the first place. Many councils do have different religions leading the prayers. There was an example of an Evangelical Christian objecting to this some time back. More fool him. You don't have to join in if you don't want to. Otherwise, it's just secularists who seem to be so thin-skinned and delicate about these things that they need to take it to court.

That's why, David B people will assume Sanderson's comments are unreasonable. It's such a small-minded position to be taking. And that small-mindedness and intolerance is increasingly being identified in this country with two groups: secularists and Islamists. Interesting company you keep.

Beyond that, most people can see through it: it's just about removing religion from the public sphere and imposing a secularist dogma in its place. You've said as much, yourself. As I've already pointed out, if Bone's conscience really is as delicate as this ruling indicates, he can't have been doing his job properly as a councillor.

10 February 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

David B: "@DanJO I gather the Christian Institute was already involved, and has indemnified Bideford's costs."

I thought I'd read that somewhere. If I were a religious person or organisation in a legal case then I'd refuse all help from them, it seems like the kiss of death for them to get involved. I don't really begrudge the money anyway as all these things are contributing to an understanding of how religions and cultures work together in our more diverse society. Obviously it's changing fairly rapidly as time goes on.

10 February 2012 at 17:58  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Your Grace. The Inspector suggests that our councillors adopt the continental attitude. When an unfavourable law happens, they spend a great deal of time and effort trying to get round it, or failing that, completely ignore it. And that goes right up to and including EU law. It’s only the British that allow themselves to be tied down in this way, the Irish certainly wouldn’t.

10 February 2012 at 18:10  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

I agree that the inclusion of compulsory prayers as part of the Council business is an anachronism of post-modern heritage and has no place on the Agenda.

Those who wish to pray should, along with every person attending simply pause for a few moments for personal reflection, pray silently if they wish or simply use the quiet moments or so to collect their thoughts and remind themselves of why they are there and leave it at that.

Would Pickles 'insist' that on Muslim majority Councils or Committees, that non Muslim councillors should suffer to indulge themselves in mute observance during Islamic ritual supplications - is that what the English electorate expects or actually wants? - Leave it out!

10 February 2012 at 18:36  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Here's a link to the story about the Christian councillor walking out when an imam delivered the prayer for Plymouth Council.

10 February 2012 at 19:09  
Blogger AncientBriton said...

We are, supposedly, a Christian country, albeit diversified in our spirit of welcome and tolerance.
Fat lot of good that has done us. Trampled by all, including by our bishops in the case of traditional Anglicans, traditional Christians have become the new underclass.
By contrast, Islamists are treated with the utmost respect for their misguided faith of aggression. As they plot our annihilation, we accord them every opportunity for prayer, even in Church schools!

10 February 2012 at 19:27  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Your Grace; Further to the comment that I left on the earlier Post, I would comment again that as the CofE is the official church in this country, it perhaps should be established that only Christian Prayers should be permitted at governmental institutions.
Eric Pickles wrote; "The Localism Act now gives councils a general power of competence - which allows them to undertake any general action that an individual could do unless it is specifically prohibited by law” A good word from my own MP. If it is true, then how could Justice Ouseley say, 'The precepts of any one religion, and belief system, cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of another. A clear contradiction in the interpretation of law I would say.
I would agree with earlier commentators that unless something is outlawed, it should be allowed.

10 February 2012 at 19:28  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

The Inspector is in full agreement with you Integrity. Immigrants should not abuse their host country’s hospitality by trying to inflict their culture on us unless invited to do so...

10 February 2012 at 19:34  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

I agree that the inclusion of compulsory prayers as part of the Council business is an anachronism

The prayers were not compulsory, and given that the council had voted to retain them, they were not an anachronism.

But history can be useful here. At the time of the Reformation, images of the saints were smashed across many parts of Europe. This was a symbolic act. It symbolised not the establishment of religious neutrality, but the imposition of Protestantism.

The removal of prayers is symbolic not of neutrality, but of a new dogmatic order. The irony is that, in replacing that most benign from a secular point of view of all forms of Christianity (Anglicanism), a more dogmatic system is being set up (secularism). We can expect more and more freedoms and culture to be eroded, in the name of secularism and progress.

10 February 2012 at 19:40  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Quite right Albert, The only thing is that Christianity should not be so benign in this country. It is because it has been benign that we have so many problems.

10 February 2012 at 20:42  
Blogger Arden Forester said...

This was bound to happen sooner or later. The secularists won't be happy until they have purged England of the Faith and made the Church of England kowtow to their new ideas and notions. In fact, General Synod already has a huge cuckoo sitting in its nest chucking out doctrines it can't be bothered with. Robert Key, an ex-Tory MP, is in there urging the Church to be more like the world. Is worldliness next to Godliness now?

Assailed from within and without. Some of us will have our work cut out just keeping our consciences in good order.

10 February 2012 at 21:10  
Blogger Dan said...

"My Lords, with all respect for the great names of the lawyers who have used it, the phrase “Christianity is part of the law of England” is really not law; it is rhetoric..."

Lord Sumner, in the case of Bowman v. Secular Society Ltd.[1917] A.C.406.

Atheists are equal citizens, we just want to be treated as such, please.

10 February 2012 at 21:30  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dan. Atheists are equal citizens, we just want to be treated as such, please.

Your wish granted. Now do stop whining...

10 February 2012 at 21:42  
Blogger Dan said...

I was being polite. Is being polite now considered a form of whining? Because if so I'm quite happy to start swearing instead if that would make you happier.

10 February 2012 at 22:00  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Dan. Just a moment dear fellow. YOU have come to a right wing Christian blog. We regular supporters of the host are here to welcome atheist thoughts are we ? Think again...

10 February 2012 at 22:06  
Blogger Dan said...

I didn't realise it was an *impolite* right wing Christian blog whose regular supporters were halfwits, no.

Perhaps I am naive.

10 February 2012 at 22:25  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

You beastly fellow. You have shown up the Inspector for the fool he is. That's it for tonight. This room the contraption is in is so cold it's like being outside. There, you have the Inspector whining too...

10 February 2012 at 22:45  
Blogger Dan said...

The historical fancy dress stuff gets a bit creepy after a while, too.

10 February 2012 at 23:02  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Dan said ...

"Atheists are equal citizens, we just want to be treated as such, please."

If only that was all you wanted. That's the drift of the sentiment being expressed here. Allow Christians the space to practice their faith, speak their mind and leave those social structures of the nation supported by the majority of people intact.

10 February 2012 at 23:25  
Blogger Mr Integrity said...

Dan; This country has been Christian for nearly 2000 years. If you don't like it, we are not going to argue about it. Try moving to a secular country. Can't say I can actualy think of one though.

10 February 2012 at 23:28  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dan @ 22:25 : ''halfwits''? ... but of course; doooo pull up a chair and join us, you'll feel right at home - welcome!

11 February 2012 at 00:14  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Albert 'The prayers were not compulsory'

And this is precisely the issue.

Being the first item on the published Agenda and the Agenda being the required document of legitimacy for matters to be conducted, certainly conveys a suggested level of compulsion in my understanding and also apparently in that of the Court.

The act of conducting Christian prayer is no doubt an historic throw back introduced at a time when dissent would have been tantamount to heresy or treason with burning at the stake the outcome - somewhat anachronistic in this day and age wouldn't you say.

Mr Integrity -

A Secular State is not anti-religion but quite the opposite. It safeguards the rights of individuals to practise their religion of choice or none, as long as in doing so it does not aspire to assume priority over the democratic process.

11 February 2012 at 00:17  
Blogger David B said...

Very nice post, Dreadnaught.

David B

11 February 2012 at 00:40  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin, you speak for yourself, thank you.

Dan said ...
"I didn't realise it was an *impolite* right wing Christian blog whose regular supporters were halfwits, no."

Well then you are more of an idiot than I first thought. You meet two of the three essential criteria and should fit right in. However, you're not that welcome as far as I'm concerned.

Have they let you atheists out for the night to celebrate?

11 February 2012 at 01:01  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

David B
You still cruising for recruits to your 'discussion board'?

Shameless.

11 February 2012 at 01:03  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dreadnaught (11 February 2012 00:17), very succinctly put.

11 February 2012 at 07:19  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Funny how the fat moron Pickles, request people to DEFY THE LAW (as a Government moinister - does this set an interesting precedent?)

Hoiwever, it seems the government is not prepared to do the same for Abu Quatada.
Double standards here, methnks.

Prayers, are, surely, a private matter.
IF you are dluded enough to believe in BSF ... what was it Yeshua said about 2 or three gathered toagtjher - presumably IN PRIVATE?

DON'T impose ANY religion on anyone.
Simples

11 February 2012 at 08:21  
Blogger len said...

Funny that those who do not believe in God resent people praying to Him.
Could it be that Atheists KNOW that there is a God but the fact is that they really just don`t like Him and people praying reminds Atheists that God really DOES exist.?

(Methinks Atheists protest TOO much!.)

11 February 2012 at 08:31  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

Being the first item on the published Agenda and the Agenda being the required document of legitimacy for matters to be conducted, certainly conveys a suggested level of compulsion in my understanding and also apparently in that of the Court.

The act of conducting Christian prayer is no doubt an historic throw back introduced at a time when dissent would have been tantamount to heresy or treason with burning at the stake the outcome - somewhat anachronistic in this day and age wouldn't you say.


Yes, burning someone at the stake would be anachronistic, which is why it is pretty anachronistic to appeal to the notion of compulsion as part of the reason for opposing it. As I recall from when this case first came up, the prayers were not compulsory, councillors didn't have to attend them. This whole case has come up because some didums of an atheist presents himself as either lacking the strength either to enter the chamber after the prayers or just stand silently through them.

If he lacks the strength he can hardly be a successful councillor, if he is unable to stand quietly through prayers, he is also unable to carry out many of his duties as a councillor. If I were an atheist, I would be embarrassed that I was being represented by such a light-weight.

The arguments presented here are thus special pleading. This has got nothing to do with compulsion, it has to do with imposing a secular idea of shared space, which limits the diversity of the communities the councillors represent. Small wonder they had voted democratically to keep the prayers and small wonder My Bone felt the need to take it to court.

11 February 2012 at 09:04  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Len: "Could it be that Atheists KNOW that there is a God but the fact is that they really just don`t like Him and people praying reminds Atheists that God really DOES exist.?"

Are you talking about Allah here? As the old saw goes, we've just ditched one more god than you en route.

11 February 2012 at 10:12  
Blogger William said...

"A Secular State ... safeguards the rights of individuals to practise their religion of choice or none, as long as in doing so it does not aspire to assume priority over the democratic process."

If that is true then all those in favour of a Secular State will be up in arms against this ruling, as Mr Bone's religion (none, as you put it) is quite clearly "assuming priority over the democratic process". Presumably all self-respecting secularists are outraged! I await the "Not in my name" placards outside the offices of the NSS.

11 February 2012 at 10:26  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Albert - I know your'e not dumb so find it difficult to accept why can you can not not see that the issue is of a much wider implication than merely an act of atheistic pedantry.

You state ...'atheist presents himself as either lacking the strength either to enter the chamber after the prayers'...

If it was the case of a solitary Christian taking a similar stand amongst a committee consisting of an overwhelming Muslim majority, you would probably herald him for showing the strength of his convictions.

The moot point is however, the fact that the prayers are included on the agenda and as such they become part of the opened meeting - it is not for the individual to absent him/herself once the meeting is in open session because of the intransigence and overbearing actions of others.

11 February 2012 at 10:28  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

...all those in favour of a Secular State will be up in arms against this ruling...

Now THIS is dumb - really, really dumb!

11 February 2012 at 10:33  
Blogger Albert said...

Dreadnaught,

If it was the case of a solitary Christian taking a similar stand amongst a committee consisting of an overwhelming Muslim majority, you would probably herald him for showing the strength of his convictions.

On the contrary. See my earlier comment:

Many councils do have different religions leading the prayers. There was an example of an Evangelical Christian objecting to this some time back. More fool him. You don't have to join in if you don't want to. Otherwise, it's just secularists who seem to be so thin-skinned and delicate about these things that they need to take it to court.

The situation as I understand it, is that the councillor is welcome to wait until prayers are over before entering the chamber, so you are wrong when you say it is not for the individual to absent him/herself once the meeting is in open session. But neither does he need to. If an atheist is such a pedant, or thin-skinned or otherwise needing mollycoddling, then he is clearly not able to do his job, which will certainly involve attending a whole range of community prayers, and indeed, acceding to the democratic will of the councillors.

I would certainly not say however, that it is purely about atheistic pedantry. I have repeatedly said it is about removing religion from the public sphere. This is why none of these arguments really work in the context of a council. We began, remember with the bizarre suggestion that prayers were a waste of tax-payers' money.

Perhaps it would be better to have a proper national debate on the nature of religious freedom, instead of all these odd legal cases, undermining religious freedoms all the time,

It is evident that you have misunderstood William's comment, who had simply followed your argument (as it currently stands) to its conclusion.

11 February 2012 at 10:42  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

Ok, so atheists think that removing prayers that were democratically voted FOR is good for the democracy of the UK, think that taking it to court was a good use of tax-payers money and that having someone complain about it rather than either not be present or keep a respectful silence represent their views is a positive? And all this because of the "principle"?

You want change? Go fight for the principle properly and get the CofE disestablished. Anything less is either cowardice or hypocrisy!

You really think removing religion from anywhere but the private realm and making a country completely devoid of any religious influence is a good thing? Has that really shown itself to be the case in the past? Really? I think not!

11 February 2012 at 10:51  
Blogger Dreadnaught said...

Albert

Perhaps it would be better to have a proper national debate on the nature of religious freedom, instead of all these odd legal cases, undermining religious freedoms all the time

I for one would welcome this.

11 February 2012 at 10:52  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

In Leicester City Council, the Lord Mayor decides. A couple of years ago, there were no prayers. This year, the prayers have been reinstated. They're 'multi-faith prayers', whatever that means.

11 February 2012 at 10:54  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dreadnaught: "I for one would welcome this."

Me too.

I blame the Christian Institute for pushing many of these cases. Their actual aim is to get one to the Supreme Court as far as I know, irrespective of any bodies and devastation left behind.

11 February 2012 at 10:58  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

As for this inanity about prayers by other religions, remember that we are a Christian country. The Church of England is established by law, making it the official faith of the UK. As such, prayers in every parish across the country offer prayers for the well-being of this country, it's people and governance. I bet no other religion can boast the same!

Prayers by, say, a Muslim would be worthless in a Christian governance setting (which all councils and parliaments in the UK are, because of the establishment) as they are addressed to a god that the setting hold to be false and as such not there to answer the prayers, making them worthless.

11 February 2012 at 11:01  
Blogger Youthpasta said...

http://cyber-coenobites.blogspot.com/2012/02/synod-member-to-challenge-prayers.html

11 February 2012 at 11:22  
Blogger Albert said...

A proper debate on religious freedom would of course examine whether how and whether secularism really is neutral, or just another stance which needs treating as such. I'm inclined to agree with Dan about the Christian Institute. In fact, the Christian Institute and the NSS seem to me to be mirror-image organisations. Both seem determined to impose their beliefs and relegate the other to private opinions.

I'm reading Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists. He has a very interesting phrase, he says we have "secularized badly...we have unnecessarily surrendered some of the most useful and attractive parts of the faiths."

Putting that into the context of the prayers, wouldn't it be more useful to allow prayers - say of the choice of the mayor? If the mayor has no faith, there is simply silence for a moment. Surely, whether prayers are offered or not a moment of collective reflection on the wider issues: truth, justice, responsibility etc. (whether or not individuals are praying) would be a positive thing. This ruling, I suspect de Botton would say, is an example of "secularizing badly". Because it isn't really about finding a good path through it, it is about everyone defending their corner, trampling on everyone else, and making their own side look small-minded.

11 February 2012 at 11:48  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Albert: or, say, to the vote of the Councillors...

Hang on a minute!

11 February 2012 at 12:56  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I'd bet that if the Prayer section were moved to before the meeting and in private then the section would be soon unobserved and forgotton in most places.

11 February 2012 at 13:01  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

AnonymousInBelfast:
'I really want to say that Councils will probably do less harm having a sing-song than "getting down to business".'
Last July Mr Pickles said of councils, "If they want to introduce a choral system, with various members of the council singing sea shanties, I don’t mind."

11 February 2012 at 13:33  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@DanJ0: Quite probably, which is why, I suspect, the councillors in Bideford voted to retain it.

@LittleFriend: Fan-flippin-tastic! Eric Pickles has gone up again in my estimation.

11 February 2012 at 14:00  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dodo @ 01:01

Eh?

11 February 2012 at 15:41  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin said...
"Dan @ 22:25 : ''halfwits''? ... but of course; doooo pull up a chair and join us, you'll feel right at home - welcome!"
(11 February 2012 00:14)

Never admit to being halfwit, even when meant sarcastically! Your foe may not have the intelligence to understand your meaning and take heart from it.

(Basic Jesuit instruction)

11 February 2012 at 18:26  
Blogger William said...

Dreadnaught @10:33

There's nothing quite like an atheist to point out how really dumb one is. At least Tingey varies it a bit with "liar" and/or "insane". Apparently, my comment was so dumb that it didn't even warrant a cursory rebuttal. How low I have sunk.

11 February 2012 at 20:41  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dodo : should it worry me if an idiot, or one's ''foe'' thinks me a halfwit?

12 February 2012 at 00:24  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin

Absolutely not, he will anyway but why encourage him?

12 February 2012 at 00:46  
Blogger len said...

IF there is no God then praying is useless and one might waste a few minutes time.
(plenty of time wasting goes on in Council meetings.)

So Atheists objections go a LOT deeper than the time spent praying.
Aggressive Atheism takes a stance against God which can only confirm His existence(In fact it is a compliment.... of sorts)

I do not believe in 'Dawkin`s god either he is an invention of Dawkin`s. God also is not the 'Allah' of the Muslims(although 'allah' is a lot closer to Dawkin`s 'god''

There is only ONE God and He revealed Himself to Humanity through the Cross at Calvary.

12 February 2012 at 08:41  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

So according to a guvmint monister (the egregious Pickles) one can doisobey a particular law, because he doesn't like it ....

Can we all play, and decide which laws we want to ignore?

12 February 2012 at 09:18  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Len: "God also is not the 'Allah' of the Muslims(although 'allah' is a lot closer to Dawkin`s 'god''"

But there are between one and two billion of them and I daresay a fair few of those sincerely believe [1] there is a god and his name is Allah. If they can be wrong then so can you given the subjective nature of it all.

[1] Enough to die for it too.

12 February 2012 at 09:20  
Blogger Albert said...

Dan,

If they can be wrong then so can you given the subjective nature of it all.

And so can you be wrong about there being no God at all. Which is why it is not up to you and your fellow atheists to declare how shared space shall be used.

12 February 2012 at 10:15  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len said ...

"God also is not the 'Allah' of the Muslims(although 'allah' is a lot closer to Dawkin`s 'god'"

Come now. "Allah" is simply Arabic for God and Syriac Christians used the word. Indeeed, the Muslim concept of God is actually quite close to the Judaic concept, specially the mystical meanderings of the Kaballah. Neither are materialistic or atheistic; neither are at all close to Dawkins.

12 February 2012 at 13:16  
Blogger len said...

Dodo,

Rubbish!.

You obviously do not know God at all!.

12 February 2012 at 17:00  
Blogger len said...

Dodo, The Muslims claim that Allah in PRE-ISLAMIC times was the biblical God of the Patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. The issue is thus one of continuity. Was "Allah" the biblical God or a pagan god in Arabia during PRE-ISLAMIC times? The Muslim's claim of continuity is essential to their attempt to convert Jews and Christians for if "Allah" is part of the flow of divine revelation in Scripture, then it is the next step in biblical religion. Thus we should all become Muslims. But, on the other hand, if Allah was A PRE-ISLAMIC PAGAN DEITY, then its core claim is refuted. Religious claims often fall before the results of hard sciences such as archeology. We can endlessly speculate about the past or go and dig it up and see what the evidence reveals. The hard evidence demonstrates that the god Allah was a pagan deity. In fact, he was the Moon-god who was married to the sun goddess and the stars were his daughters.

I can see how Catholics will eventually unite in a 'unity of Faith' with Muslims if they follow your delusion thinking!
You insult the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob by your ridiculous speculations!.

12 February 2012 at 17:11  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len

Just what is rubbish? I'm afraid I can't make head nor tail of your subsequent somewhat hysterical post. Are you off on one again about Babylonia and Catholicism?

I was referring to the term "Allah" which simply means God. It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and Sikhs.

In pre-Islamic times the term was used to refer to a non-monotheistic deity. The description you give of moon gods and sun goddesses is not one I recognise. Allah was thought to have had sons and daughters.

In Islam Allah refers to one God.
The Aramaic word for "God". Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God". The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for 'God'.

So I return to my main point - the Islamic concept of God has nothing whatsoever in common with Dawkins.

As for the rest of your nonsense about a unity between Catholics and Muslims, it is unworthy of comment.

12 February 2012 at 19:59  
Blogger Oswin said...

I go with Len on this one, 'Allah' was a pre-Islamic deity, and rather a minor one a that. If I remember correctly, it was the ancestral deity of Mohammed's tribe and/or local to the area of his birth.

13 February 2012 at 00:45  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin

It rather depends on which "Allah" we're referring to and whether Muhammend stuck with the pre-Islamic version - who was one god amongst others and had children etc - or went with a monotheistic version. One could argue the Jewish concept of God emerged out of pagan origins too and was polytheist in nature.

Anyway, that isn't really what I'm questioning. It's the idea that the Islamic idea of God is similar to Dawkin's atheism that I find rather daft. And the Christian understanding of God is distinct from that of Judaism, the latter having much in common with the Islamic (not pre-Islamic) concept.

13 February 2012 at 01:22  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dodo: fair enough, in part, ref' your second paragraph. (where is Avi when one needs him?!?!?!?)

My point was, as I'm sure you appreciate, that Mohammed's choice was one of convenient political expedience; the kernel of his pan-arabic expansionist movement, paid for by the promise of loot, slaves and, for those who failed 'on the job' as it were, everlasting virgins, or some such.

Len's wider point still somewhat escapes me, if it is other than blaming the R.C.C for the creation of Islam?


Avi: where are you? Your contributions are sorely missed; please return soon!

13 February 2012 at 17:16  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin

I trust by now you know my opinion on the Koran. I think it is a muddled and bastardised version of Judaism and Christianity. Was it written to simply support Mohummeds political aspirations? I really don't know but suspect he was deluded and maybe believed what he was writing.

13 February 2012 at 18:09  
Blogger Oswin said...

Dodo: well you ask an interesting question, and one I've often wondered at. Was it a 'convenience' alone; or does it include some measure of madness too?

There can be no doubt that Mohammed suffered some form of psychosis, as testified by many of his own supporters.

It's a Chicken or egg job; which came first? Or was it a measure of both, from the very beginning?

I rather tend to favour the latter, which at least goes some way to explain, if not excuse, his bizarre behaviours, once released from the confines of his marriage, by the death of his much older, and controlling wife.

14 February 2012 at 00:10  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Oswin, from what we know, and it isn't a great deal, he seems to have suffered some from some form of regular psychotic breaks and probably mania too. This condition opens one mind to 'insights' - both diabolical and Godly - and without caution can lead to megalomania.

There is a very fine line between spiritual awareness and insanity.

14 February 2012 at 00:38  
Blogger len said...

The 'Allah' of the Muslims(not the Allah of the Arab Christians) was the issue that we were talking about and which you alluded to Dodo.You are now just trying to 'cover your tracks 'and fudging the issue Dodo.

As for Muslims and Catholics uniting? well, they are already doing so on 'gay issues'. Small beginnings etc?

14 February 2012 at 08:20  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len

Do read my original post. You went off on one as usual, blinded by your prejudice about Catholicism and what you think we believe.

So tell me, just what do Catholics believe about homosexuality and just how are we united with Muslims?

14 February 2012 at 21:28  
Blogger Dan said...

That's a good point. We shouldn't assume that any particular Catholic agrees with Catholic teaching on any particular issue, even assuming they can make any sense of it.

As far as I can tell, Catholicism and Islam are not big ideological fans of homosexuality. But the suggested solutions are not currently the same.

15 February 2012 at 00:05  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Dan
Let's not play silly games and just stick with Catholic teaching on homosexuality, shall we? It's perfectly clear and intelligible to anyone with a modicum of intelligence.

len
To avoid confusion let me know what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality and where this is the same as Islam.

15 February 2012 at 01:03  
Blogger len said...

Dodo I believe you live North of the border, here is a short take from one of your local papers.


'Meeting set between Catholic and Muslim leaders over SNP gay marriage plan
Nov 9 2011 Magnus Gardham



CATHOLIC and Muslim leaders in Scotland are joining forces to fight SNP plans to allow gay marriage.

There are soooo many items in so many papers that I could fill this whole Blog with them.

Do you you get the news up there?

15 February 2012 at 08:08  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len, I asked you define Catholic belief on homosexuality and how it is the same as Islam.

Joining forces to prevent the legalisation of homosexual marriages is not the same as agreeing a theological objection.

Would you receive treatment from a Muslim doctor if you were suffering from a disease?

Tell me what is Catholic teaching on homosexuality and where you disagree with it?

Or is this just another silly 'hit and run' attack, lacking in sunstance, reason or knowledge that I've grown so accustomed to?.

15 February 2012 at 14:28  
Blogger len said...

Dodo you seem to have lost the thread?.

I said that Catholics and Muslims are joining forces against 'gays'And then gave you ONE article.

You seem to be wandering from the point somewhat?

Are you trying to deny what is in print?.

15 February 2012 at 21:21  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len

It's you that's avoiding theissue - as usual. I'm now wondering if thought is beyond you.

Define Catholic teaching and show how the Church is united with Islam in theology and belief. The article said nothing.

Can't do it, can you?

15 February 2012 at 21:32  
Blogger len said...

Dodo, which catholic teaching would you like?. There seems to be some confusion in Catholic circles exactly what the teaching is?.
Catholic teaching on homosexuality is in fact 'all over the place'!.


You seem to want to create a 'straw man'over which to argue, my statement is that Catholic and Muslims will unite over ' gay issues', and this has been proved conclusively.

16 February 2012 at 19:33  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len

What do you believe it to be? You reckon you know the Church's teachings. And there is only one Catholic position.

It's you who claim Catholicism is united with Islam. Stop dodging about and answer for goodness sake.

Tell me - would you do nothing or teach nothing about homosexuality because Catholics and Muslims do? If you did teach it was against God's law would this tarnish you with these 'religions'?

How absurd and (here comes the 'b' word) biggotted you really are!

16 February 2012 at 20:27  
Blogger len said...

Dodo, I wondered how long it would take you.(surprised you spelt it wrong 'bigoted' being one of your favourite words!)

19 February 2012 at 14:35  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len

Yes, the definition fits you perfectly.

And as ever, no answer which just proves my point.

19 February 2012 at 18:56  

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