WORTHING Council will not be affected by a test case in which another town council was found to have acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said at meetings.
Last week, the High Court ruled Bideford Town Council, in Devon, had acted unlawfully after action was brought against it by the National Secular Society (NSS) following a complaint from an atheist councillor.
The NSS said the inclusion of prayers within a council meeting agenda was against the councillor’s human rights.
Mr Justice Ouseley ruled the prayers were not lawful under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972.
However, he said prayers could be said as long as councillors were not formally summoned to attend.
Worthing mayor Ann Barlow and her chaplain, the Rev. Peter Irwin-Clark, Rector of Broadwater made the following announcement: “Council prayers are a long and much-appreciated tradition of Worthing Council, and make a vital statement about the importance of spiritual and transcendent values underlying the discussions of council business.
“In Worthing, such prayers take place before the business to which the councillors are summoned, rather than as part of it, and in the light of that, I intend that during the term of my tenure that sessions of the council will continue to be preceded by prayers but not as part of the formal agenda. Following prayers there will be a short interlude to enable those not wishing to take part in prayers to be able to enter in good time for the meeting.”