Atheists win UK case on council prayers

2012-02-10 20:00

London - Atheists were celebrating victory in a landmark test case in Britain on Friday after challenging the right of a town council to hold prayers before meetings.

The National Secular Society and an atheist councillor challenged the practice of Bideford town council in Devon, southwest England, of having religious prayers on meeting agendas.

The legal challenge was launched in July 2010 after the NSS was contacted by Clive Bone, a non-believer who was then a councillor in Bideford.

Bone later quit the council due to its "refusal to adjust" its prayer policy.

NSS lawyers argued that council members who were not religious were being "indirectly discriminated against" and that their human rights were being breached.

Ruling 'bizarre'

However, the case was not won on human rights grounds, but on an arcane point of local government legislation.

Judge Duncan Ouseley ruled in a London court: "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."

Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said the ruling was "bizarre".

He said: "We are pleased that the court has said the saying of prayers at meetings does not breach human rights laws - but it is bizarre that they should be declared unlawful because of the 1972 Local Government Act."

The judgement was seen as a test case which could affect local councils across England and Wales.

  • Leonard - 2012-02-10 20:14

    Great! Nice living in a "developed" country....

      Ian - 2012-02-11 10:54

      Another victory to the heathens......

  • @RossWZA - 2012-02-10 20:17

    The correct decision in my opinion.

  • Cracker - 2012-02-10 20:20

    The reason for the ruling as stated by the judge is bizarre. It should have been based on more sensible grounds, even if the rational by the court amounted to the sole reason that conflict must be avoided by rather laying down the sensible practice now rather than later that religion is and should be kept out of public affairs. But before we see a flood of condemnations of the court's decision flooding in, how would the adherents of a particular belief system take it if the prayer practice favored a specific majority faithful to a particular belief system? Protestants in a prayer environment for example where Mary or some other saint is prayed to? Or Islam?

      Fidel - 2012-02-10 20:27

      A compromise, like we do in SA where all faiths are represented in official ceremonies, like the opening of parliament or the swearing in of a president. I know I'm dreaming, only in SA could an idea like this be conceived.

  • Fidel - 2012-02-10 20:23

    Amen to that!

  • Hermann - 2012-02-10 20:26

    A great ruling. Religion should play no part in governance because of the diversity of religions. If a moment of silent reflection should precede meetings I will support it.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 04:18

      Public piety should be considered a repulsive act!

  • bluzulu - 2012-02-10 20:30

    Sweet as, I great day for us Atheist. One should never force their beliefs onto others in any guise.Some of us choose not practice religion.This is one's right a democracy. More work required here for sure!!!

      Hermann - 2012-02-10 20:39

      Not a great ruling for the atheists idiot. It is a great ruling for the diversity of beliefs so don't go bloating getting a big atheist head.

      Sean - 2012-02-10 21:27

      The democracy religion I see,

      Billy - 2012-02-11 00:12

      @bluzulu - the lone atheist councillor was forcing his "belief" as an atheist on the majority of non-atheists in the council. Where's the democracy in that? Oops - of course - that is democracy SA style, hence your facile argument.

      trix.duvenage - 2012-02-11 10:59

      All of you Atheists: It is not strange that such a ruling happened in England. An International religious survey a few years ago indicated that England was the country with the LOWEST number of believers on the PLANET. Considering the fact that ALL nations on Earth participated in this survey [all African states as well and it included the East as well] then one must ask what is actually wrong in England. However, it is not hard to understand why South Africa battles to really unite as far as relationships between all colours is concerned and why the struggle to destroy racism and discrimination and corruption and crime of all sorts: The general moral standars and ethical values in any nation START in the home of the child and it progresses in his/her early school life. By having such a weak religious attitude as we have in South African shools, we in fact ROB our nation from prosperity. To the Atheists this will sound daft and stupid as the 'natural man' cannot understand the wisdom of God, but the awakened christian will understand that Jesus came so that we can have life and abundance. I will never condem an Atheist but I pity them for they do not know what they miss in life and to my mind they also do not know what they are going to miss in the life here after.....

      Alex - 2012-02-11 12:33

      @trix, maybe "what is wrong with england" because of low believer count speaks for itself. Think about it...

  • Paul - 2012-02-10 20:44

    Atheists believe in nothing and believe they become nothing on their death. Why would they worry about such a little thing?

      Phoenix - 2012-02-10 20:51

      Oh dear

      Cracker - 2012-02-10 20:59

      @ Paul Because they are sadistic. Happy now?

      Johan - 2012-02-10 22:01

      1) It is a waste of time. And time is valuable. 2) Having to listen to prayers is just so awkward - it is like a constant reminder of how many idiots there are in the world. I cringe just thinking about it.

      Berthram Bowles - 2012-02-11 02:21

      Atheists may not believe in a god or higher power, but they do believe in a future for their children, and their children's children. So best u start respecting that fact because why must they respect u if u cannot do the same?

      MagdaKus - 2012-02-11 03:23

      That does not sound very respectful of others to me- if a lone person imposes his view on the rest... Maybe they should have prayer first, 1 minute break to let those who wanted to skip theprayer to join them- all happy?

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 03:33

      Not only sadistic, fools as well.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 04:19

      Paul and Dirk should read their buybull some time And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. - Matthew 6:5

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 07:33

      Godfrey- And you should read the rest, not just those that you want to hear. Let me kick you off with this one:"The fool has said in his heart, there is no God"(Ps 14:1)

      Berthram Bowles - 2012-02-11 11:05

      Oh my... Another case of "the Bible says this, the Bible says that..." Aren't u guys a little old for that argument by now?

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 11:11

      Dirk What you have done is called a strawman. Look it up some time. Deal with the issue, not use trying to divert to something else.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 12:46

      What you are doing, is called self deception

  • Martin - 2012-02-10 20:51

    Oh atheists, do our prayers annoy (offend) you so much?

      Cracker - 2012-02-10 21:01

      @ Martino Oh believers (so many of you in so many different belief systems), do we atheists and agnostics concern you so much?

      goyougoodthing - 2012-02-10 22:02

      Yes Martino they do. They offend me to think of all the misery that the various religions have cause, of the suffering and limiting of human progress due to the shackles of faith.

      Martin - 2012-02-11 00:58

      Point taken.

      MagdaKus - 2012-02-11 03:28

      @ cracker- I am all for tolerance- but especially at these discussion forums- and in rulling like this atheists do not show much tolerance. And as for suffering- in the past century belief systems/ ideologies some specifically atheistic (like Communism- Stalin & the like) others anti-religious or not religious have caused more death than anything religious for the past 20 centuries. Not that those were free on non-religious slaughter like under the likes of Genghis Khan.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 04:21

      Xians like being seen conversing with their them an air of piety to brandish around. Normal people see them for what they are; just hypocrites.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 07:37

      And God sees you as FOOLS."The fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov 1:7) "The way of the fool is right in his own eyes" ((Prov 12:15) In Ps 37:13 it also says- God laughs at you!

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 11:12

      Dirk I see you can claim to speak on behalf of your god and know what he thinks. Makes sense, after all the god is man made.

  • Martin - 2012-02-10 20:51

    NSS lawyers argued that council members who were not religious were being "indirectly discriminated against" and that their human rights were being breached. How?

      Cracker - 2012-02-10 21:04

      @ Martino In exactly the same way you would have reacted if the prayers were in the vein of some deity or reflection of a deity not to your liking. That is how they start planting bombs and other nasty devices. Rather avoid the nastiness right now while there is still time.

      Gar - 2012-02-10 22:03

      By having to sit through conversations with imaginary friends while they have work to do

      Martin - 2012-02-11 00:59


      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 04:22

      Combined prayer, nothing more than a mating call to wingnuts. Its embarrassing.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 07:44

      Mat. 15:14 "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into the ditch"

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 11:14

      Dirk again quoting the selected part of his buybull. Which is not particularly more impressive than quoting Grimm's Fairy Tales or Alice in Wonderland.

  • Ever - 2012-02-10 21:06

    Was this really necessary? One atheist on the entire council objects and everyone else has to go along with him? And by the way, before anyone hurts themselves jumping to conclusions, I am a lifelong atheist. But in a situation like that, when the majority wants to pray, is it such a threat to us atheists just to sit and wait till their prayers are complete? If you don't believe in god (whichever god the prayer is being directed to) surely it is just meaningless chatter? If this character was having a meal in the home of a practicing Christian, would he refuse to allow his host to say grace, or start eating while the prayer was being said? I would hope that he would have the common decency to sit still and shut up. I think the vast majority of atheists are quite happy to let prayers take place around them without feeling persecuted and isolated. I enjoy Xmas decorations and sing along with carols-but I feel no need to insist that they not be displayed or played because it offends my atheist sensibilities! This kind of thing just makes atheists look silly and small-minded. (There is no suggestion that the subsequent decisions and discussions were skewed by a Christian perspective-that would obviously be a problem!)

      Cracker - 2012-02-10 21:32

      @ Ever It is ultimately about consistency and a blanket protection against all other potential religious interference and domination. It is a public assembly. It fulfills a public function. Leave religion out of its functions and meetings. The news item gives no indication that the complainant actually felt threatened. But that is not the issue. Well, not yet. We however do not know what may await us. It is not only one religion that we have to be careful of.

      Scouter - 2012-02-10 21:47

      That is just about the most balanced and well constructed opinion on any subject I think I have read on this site. Excellent and as a principle one we might all do well to embrace - be we an atheist, Christian, Muslim et al. Thanks for sharing this.

      Linda Visagie - 2012-02-11 00:39

      @ Cracker - I do think he felt threatend, and rightly so! Our God is an awesome God & u are sure to see it sooner or later...!

      Matthew Patrick - 2012-02-11 06:52

      @Ever I agree 100%! I, myself, am an atheist and have no problem if religious people around me say a prayer before a meal or whatever. It's good manners to just shut up and bow your head.

      nokubongajoy.krwentela1 - 2012-02-11 07:58

      no ne could have said it any better @EVER. me being the christian that i am. also if i were to go to an atheist's home for a meal i wouldnt expect them to say grace, even though i would silently do so without disrespecting their way of life.

      trix.duvenage - 2012-02-11 11:24

      very well said EVER. at least one clever soul in the world of the ignorant.

  • Rodent - 2012-02-10 21:14

    The reason why all organized religions are wrong is because there are so many of them. Non of them is close to God. All prayer books and hymns are just a collection of myths. All Popes and clergymen are there to profiteer. Only direct link from a human to God makes sense. That is why churches and all prayer gatherings are false and have no meaning.

      Tristan - 2012-02-10 22:09

      And a rodent you will remain, christianity is a relationship and therefore we are close to God. There is more proof God exsists than you have a brain, if you say you have one then prove it, I cannot see it, taste it, touch it, smell it or hear it, so you are brainless as far as I am concerened. Please keep to yourself on things you know absolutely nothing of. Go eat some cheese!!!

      Berthram Bowles - 2012-02-11 02:09

      @tristan: u will definitely enter the kingdom of God by insulting others, so good on u!

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 11:58

      @Tristan You cannot prove that your god exists, You cannot know for certain that your revelation is trust worthy and you have to eventually admit that your beliefs are entirely a faith position, unsupported by any evidence whatsover. You believe because others told you what to believe. You may claim the contrary, but then you are simply speaking from within a deep seated delusion. 1. Prove that gods exist, 2. prove that your version of your particular god is the 'right' one, 3. prove that Jesus Christ existed, 4. prove that he was the son of your version of your particular god, I am genuinely excited awaiting your response.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 12:54

      The fact that nothing more than hot air is coming from your direction, does not prove that you exist either

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 15:19

      Dirk My very existence seems to bother you. Excellent. I am obviously getting under a very thin and uncertain skin.

  • michael.e.bowery - 2012-02-10 21:21

    Just one more sympton of a very sick British society gathering speed on the downhill run!

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 04:30

      Yeah! It is sickening to see them wasting their time like this and doing it wrong. What they need are Advanced Prayer Strategies. Advanced Prayer Strategies would teach them: * God's secret nickname... known only by The Jews! * Peak prayer hours: don't get caught up in the pre-bedtime rush! * How to bargain with God on your terms. Learn about His secret past, and use it against Him! * Over 500 compliments God's never heard before, organized alphabetically! * The secret to getting your three wishes promised in The Old Testament, as revealed by The Bible Code! Then they could also pray for the religious leaders to stop raping cildren.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 12:00

      @Barend I suppose as far as any of the Scandinavian countries which enjoy the World's highest standard of living. Or China which is set to economically and scientifically bury the god obsessed United States.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 13:00

      This comment just underlines your ignorance and susceptibility to propaganda. The US GDP is $14.5 Trillion, China 4.5. And what is more, China is absolutely dependant on the US consumer. China remains a closed economy and the bubble may just burst along with India. See what the Word says about fools, AGAIN

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 15:20

      DIrk Wishful thinking again. Guess who is more worried, the Yanks or the Chinese.

  • Gregory Jurgens - 2012-02-10 21:27

    Well done, if christians need to pray by all means pray all you want in your free time , but to make it compulsory for all people in a working enviroment is ludicrous. This is truly a righteous judgment.

      Noko Trevor - 2012-02-10 21:32

      I couldn't have said it better.

  • Christopher - 2012-02-11 01:40

    I never have understood what a prayer at a council meeting is for, or in any government meeting. It is the ultimate form of hypocrisy, pretend to be religious and caring about god, then lie cheat and steal just as you normally do. If god were paying attention he would zap every one of those politicians right in the midst of their lying prayer. The fact the politicians keep doing it is proof of their complete lack of any real belief in god, any god.

      Johan - 2012-02-11 10:45

      Or worse - sports teams praying before a game: May the team with the best god wins. LOL.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 13:03

      LOL ?? Ps 37:13 God says that He laughs at you. Did you know it?

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 15:22

      Dirk Quoting the bible again. If your imaginary god laughs he does not do much else. I think this Almighty God you rave about is just a great big gutless pussy! Hey! God. Come down here so I can kick your a$$. Waiting ......... Waiting .........Nothing! Why am I not surprised? Maybe he just does not exist.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-02-11 07:31

    I won't even give my dog a (Clive) Bone. Bonehead

  • Mark Forsyth - 2012-02-11 08:28

    And they were praying for the judgement to go their way.Surprise surprise god did not answer their prayers again so I would think that he must agree with the ruling.Next time they should ask papa smurf and they will get the same result.Both only exist in story books.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 12:02

      When you want something really bad and you close your eyes and wish for it-- God's the guy who ignores you. - Caspian Tredwell-Owen

  • trix.duvenage - 2012-02-11 11:22

    @ Johan: Ek dink jy is dalk een van die Johanne wat meer graag Engels praat ook maar ek gaan jou in Afrikaans antwoord: Godsiens en gebede verveel jou omdat jy slaap. Jy is tien teen een een van die wat oe het maar nie sien nie en ore maar nie hoor nie. Gaan in op Google en soek 'The seal of God' kies die derde een op die lys [as ek reg onthou] wat geskryf is deur FC Payne. Lees die boek en WAKE UP! want jy beweeg op dun ys. 'n Mens lewe net een keer. Van 'n mors van tyd gepraat: Gaan staan voor 'n horlosie wat 'n sekonde wyster het en hou dit dop. Die sekondewyse staan nie stil nie en elke 'tik' wat dit gee is presies EEN sekonde nader aan JOU dood. En die oomblik wanneer daardie horlosie sy LAASTE 'tik-geluid' vir JOU maak is dit te laat om tot jou sinne te kom. Dan is dit VERBY....en dan gaan jou surprise kom. Jy het nog tyd..... ruk jouself reg en gaan op jou kniee.... sela.

      Johan - 2012-02-11 12:00

      Trix, ek glo nie daar is 'n god nie, en ek glo nie Die Bybel is die "woord van God" nie. So daar is niks in Die Bybel of enige boek wat daarop gebaseer is wat my sal oortuig nie. Ek beskou die Bybel as fiksie. Maar my oë en ore is groot oop. En tot vandag toe kon ek GEEN bewys of enige indikasie waarneem dat daar werklik iets soos 'n god is nie. Die enigste logiese gevolgtrekking wat ek dus kan maak, is dat dit alles net 'n sprokie is om mense wat die dood vrees beter te laat voel. Ek is nie bang vir die dood nie en geniet my lewe. Elke sekonde daarvan. Dus het ek geen nut vir 'n god of gode nie.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 12:09

      Have you any proof of this important revelation. I mean you really have me scared now as I was so hoping to go to heaven and sit next to jesus, and Dirk, and Barend and ans spookoctopus and hundreds of popes and PW Botha, and Jeffrey Dahmer and ......... Guess I am going to have to share hell with George Carlin, Winston Churchill, Gandhi, Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, Billy Connolly and ...... Wait. Your heaven sounds more like hell!!!!!!!!!!!

      Peter - 2012-02-11 12:49

      @Johan. Ek stem 100% saam met jou. Ek glo ook nie daar is 'n god nie. Enige reguitdenkende persoon wat nie met oogklappe deur die lewe gaan nie behoort tot dieselfde beseffens te kom, maar ongelukkig word sommige kinders van jongs af so gebreinspoel dat hulle as volwassenes blindelings net glo sonder enige bewys.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 13:12

      More hot air What about Stalin? 60 million. Mao? 50 Mill. Pol Pot and the other countless atheists? Dont speak through your ears! Firstly find out what a Christian is IN THE BIBLE. Spiritual death at the Cross, re- birth and baptism by the Holy Spirit- not the fairy tales you read here and often hear in buildings, called churches.

      Godfrey - 2012-02-11 15:25

      Ag Dirk You are so transparent when you use selective quotes and information. "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." -Adolf Hitler, Christian Mass Murderer I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" --Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." - Adolf Hitler, 1933 speech in Berlin "... I do not merely talk of Christianity, no, I also profess that I will never ally myself with the parties which destroy Christianity." —Adolf Hitler, February 15, 1933, speech in Stuttgart "National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity." —Adolf Hitler, August 26, 1934, speech in Koblenz Your Christianity perhaps?

  • Deon - 2012-02-11 13:05

    Here in the UK, this is NOT considered a victory for atheism. It was never a tug-of-war between christian and atheists, the likes of which is ongoing on News24 and in SA. It simply involves the separation of church and state. Perfectly acceptable, I reckon. If you want to pray, do it at home or in church on a Sunday. But business is business. The atheist gentleman who brought the case explains it perfectly: 'Religious freedom is an absolute right, and so is freedom from religion.' No vindictave opposition-bashing here, because people respect the beliefs or non-beliefs of others.

      Johan - 2012-02-11 13:53

      Deon, things are different in SA. For some reason christians here do not accept atheists or their right to exist. To give you just one example, a few weeks ago TopTV tried to introduce a new porn channel (PlayboyTV). This new channel would have been a separate subscription, completely optional, and password protected on the decoder. Guess what the christians here did? They threatened TopTV with a complete boycott if they go ahead with this OPTIONAL new channel. You see the problem? We might have freedom of religion (on paper at least), but sadly no freedom FROM religion.

      Dirk - 2012-02-11 14:11

      No, Christians simply exercised their right to withold their financial support from an organization which wanted to contribute to the distribution of porn/filth. This should be extended to all areas of societies. Continue, yes that is your right. Just dont expect Christians to support and to contribute.

      Johan - 2012-02-11 14:29

      And what about all the chistian TV channels? (These channels are not even optional - so you have to pay for them even if they don't want them.) Have you ever heard atheists saying that they are going to boycott anyone because of that? No. And that is the difference. While atheists are happy to leave christians alone, christians (in SA) are too selfish to do the same.

  • jasonross987 - 2013-03-09 20:03

    "And on that day every knee will bow and every tounge will confess that he is God"

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