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Cllr Rhind will oppose attempts to ban prayers

By SPP Reporter

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Alasdair Rhind
Alasdair Rhind

ANY attempts to ban prayers before local authority meetings in the Highlands will be opposed, insists the councillor who will lead his colleagues in quiet reflection on Thursday.

The National Secular Society won a High Court action in England last month which ruled it was illegal to say prayers as a formal part of council meetings.

Amid a national outcry that Christianity was being marginalised, the UK Government’s communities secretary Eric Pickles has challenged the decision and the Devon council which defended the court case has appealed.

The National Secular Society, which represents atheists, agnostics and all other non-believers, is looking into the possibility of similar legal action in Scotland against councils which hold prayers.

Selected members of Highland Council pray for a short time before full meetings of the authority.

A spokeswoman said it had no plans “at present” to review the practice in light of the ruling in England.

Tain councillor Alasdair Rhind, a church elder, is to lead prayers in the council chamber in Inverness on Thursday, before the meeting commences and described it as an honour.

Councillor Rhind said it concentrated the hearts and minds of everybody who was there to represent their communities before debate started.

“I don’t like it being called a tradition because if it is a tradition there is no meaning to it,” he said.

“Prayers are very meaningful and if people don’t want to take part they can stay out. I think it is very important to do it at the beginning of a meeting because we are working for the benefit of the people who we represent. I am proud we are a Christian country and I think Christian values should continue in our country. We represent people of all faiths and no faith at all.”

The Tain and Easter Ross councillor said he thought the majority of his colleagues would support the retention of prayers and oppose any potential legal action.

* More on this story in Friday's Northern Times

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