Council prayers go on in face of challenge

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A council at the centre of a High Court battle over the legality of saying Christian prayers before meetings was to continue the practice when it met last night for the first time since a legal hearing.

The National Secular Society is challenging the “practice of holding religious prayers” during meetings of the town council in Bideford, Devon, in what could be a test case.

Mr Justice Ouseley reserved judgment in the case last week to a date yet to be decided and the council’s clerk, Heather Blackburn, said yesterday that last night’s meeting would include prayers before the start of business.

“Until we have a judgment to say otherwise we will continue as we have done before,” she said.

The secular society brought the case on the grounds that it believes the religious ritual is “inappropriate” in what should be “a secular environment concerned with civic business”.