Sunday, 12 February 2012


The ramifications of the situation at Bideford have started to be felt all over England, as councils and other organisations reflect on the ruling of the High Court that it is illegal to include prayers in the official business of the meetings of local councils.

In this case, the first item on the agenda was a CofE Christian prayer. If you were not a Christian, or didn’t want to take part for any other reason (there are lots of different kinds of Christians, some pretty much at war with others) then you had a choice: put up with it, or turn up late for the meeting.

Now it is reported that in the Commons, where the chaplain (presumably a functionary paid for out of taxes) says prayers before the start of each session, Speaker Bercow (both left), has said that the ruling will not affect them, as they are covered by the English Bill of Rights.

However, some parliamentarians are questioning this. They say that although they are not obliged to attend for the prayers... in short they, unlike the councillors, are not marked “late” if they are not in place at the session’s start, if they want a seat, they have to turn up early to guarantee that they will be able to sit. (This is one of the problems of having a chamber which is too small for the number of MPs sent to it: a problem that I for one would be happy to solve for them, by stopping sending any MPs from Scotland!)

Some MPs make a protest by taking their seats and remaining seated during the prayers when the Christians stand to pray. They urge that prayers be moved to somewhere they think more appropriate, like for example the parliamentary Chapel: not an unreasonable place given that that is what it is for, and it might as well get some use, seeing as we pay for it out of tax money.

Somewhat surprisingly one of the champions of Church of England prayers is Nadine Dorries (right).  That’s the Nadine with the dubious record on expenses, and who fiddled her money on a tvprogramme about living on the dole, and who later ran off with a married man... her friend's husband, actually.

I suspect that the good lord might have been just as happy if Mad Nad were on the other side of this particular argument.

It seems only sensible to me that no one should be expected, on a regular basis, to take part in religious observances with which they have no sympathy. It should not be a part of their job.  Christians themselves have taken strong stands on this very matter. Was not James McKay (below left) expelled from the Free Church of Scotland, after attending the Roman Catholic funerals of two colleagues? And did not the Rev Iain Paisley not scream “Antichrist” as the Pope was saying a few words of prayer in the European parliament?

Religion has for too long been a part of the state. It should not be. States cannot have religion. Religion is an intensely personal thing. It is a faith; a belief. It has to be interpreted by the individual.  By what it says to him or her, how it informs and directs his or her life. And it can only ever be respected if it is not forced upon people.

The UK state religion is Church of England, with a concession that in Scotland it is the Church of Scotland.  What nonsense that is. How can the Queen and her family be members of both? And why do politicians like Jim Murphy feel that before they even start, they have no chance of prime ministership because they are Catholic?  Why can’t any of the royals marry a catholic?

This is the 21st century. Religion should now be put back where it belongs: in the personal life of the individual. To do otherwise is to mock religion; to use god as a tool of the state.


  1. I don't understand this constant attack on our culture.
    We're a Christian country so if politicians don't like it they should go and live in Saudi.

  2. "the ruling of the High Court that it is illegal to include prayers"

    Are you sure ?
    I thought the ruling was the other way.

  3. I thin that the good Gentleman will find that it is the religious freedom of The Church of Scotland that is guaranteed by law and that it is not part of the state. It is of course a foundational principle of Presbyterianism that the state should not interfere in matters of Religion.

    I am an agnostic and see no problem with prayers at Council meetings as I could just take a moment for reflection. Being a bit of a libertarian I tend towards the view that just because I do not do something does not mean that others should not be allowed to.

  4. You're right tris. How sad.


    I'm an atheist but would have no problem joining in with a prayer. It's worshiping sky pixie nonsense but it's harmless and threatens no one. Unlike the sharia.

  5. Tris,

    I agree, wholeheartedly, with your principle. Religion should not be forced down the throats of others.

  6. I'm with mordor on this. I see no problems with Christian prayers in any situation because I have a choice to participate or not. It doesn't upset me being in the company of those who wish to acknowledge their faith in this way.

  7. My Point, when in Rome, is that a country cannot have a religion, unless it is telling people what they may believe, in this country.

    Once upon a time that was acceptable. I know that in certain companies it used to be the way to get on. I have relatives, now very elderly, or dead, that used it as social leverage.

    But having the head of state as the head of her own church is just plain silly. What would happen if the monarch just couldn't believe in the teachings of the church? We've already had the Duke of Rothsay getting married in a registrars or registry office because his church teaches against the marriage of someone who has an existing spouse living (Mr Parker Bowels). How, when his turn comes will he be able to assume the mantle of head of that church.

    It is manipulation of a belief, for some people the guiding light of their lives, into something which is a political.

    We cannot be a Christian country unless we are forced to be Christians. it is most unlikely that every single one of us is actually going to believe.

  8. No when in rome, the ruling was that prayers "within" the official council meeting were illegal. It is not illegal to have prayers. they simply cannot be on the agenda, and therefore something that everyone has to take part in.

  9. Thank you for correcting me about the Church of Scotland, mordor.

    Would I be correct in assuming then, that that Scotland doesn't actually have a state religion, and as such we are not a Christian country.

    The setting up of the Church of England by another king who clearly didn't believe in the teachings of the Roman church, so he set up his own, came when we were blessedly, an independent country.

    I should have researched the Scottish situation differently. Although I do remember that at school in Scotland we were taken to church at Christmas and Easter, and that it was CofS.

    I have no problem sitting through a religious service, of any sort, and I have done so at weddings and funerals, but I wouldn't care to have to do it every day.

    I tend to think that public servants might like to reflect on their own time. You might use it for intellectual reflection, some might use it to fancy the bird just in front of them, or to work out what they were going to have for dinner.

  10. Yes Gedguy.

    It is for some, uncomfortable. For some it's embarrassing (I feel rather silly singing a hymn I don't know the tune or words to, and being put off by the tuneless dirge from others). For some (as for Mr McKay of Clashfern), it can cause ructions with their own religious authorities, and in any case it devalues religion.

  11. When in Rome: It was mildly harmful to Mr McKay of Clashfern. of course he didn't get his head chopped off but he was ostracised.

    I believe that he started a breakaway movement, as is the way with churches. it might be describes as the "little disruption"!

  12. Would you be so happy if you were forced to participate every day, Subrosa? And what would happen if you were a Jew, or Hindu?

    I also think it is kinda wasting staff's time if they are being paid to sit and stare into space. It's not like the saying prayers has done much good. After all, I believe that in the Commons they pray that their endeavours should be wise.

    Yeah, well that worked, didn't it?

  13. From my side of the pond, I surely can't let this one pass without extended comment.

    The very IDEA of a "state religion" should be anathema to a free people in a modern state. I must humbly point out that we Americans got it right in 1787, when we wrote the federal constitution for the new republic. No aristocracy....and ESPECIALLY no State Religion.

    But ironically, the religious Americans have been trying to screw it up ever since. They even got to the point of putting Christian prayers in the public (state supported) schools. The Supreme Court has spent a lot of time over the years banning the mandatory practice of public prayers and religious observances from the schools and public places of America. The anguished cries of right wing Christians (and the Republican politicians who pander to them) are constant and deafening. GIVE US BACK OUR PRAYERS!!!! The heathen school children (heathen = Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc) don't have to participate, they say. Non-Christian children can just stand up and leave....while the teacher and other children glare at them of course. But we have a constitution and a Supreme Court which enforces it, so mandated religious observances in public state forums are generally banned in America.

    Now we come to England, Scotland, and the UK. “In the 21st Century Religion and Politics Should Be Completely Separate.” ABSOLUTELY! SPOT ON! But in a state which has arrived at the 21st century with the burden of a thousand years of history, and without a written constitution or Bill of Rights, good luck with that one. More to the point you have the utterly bizarre construct of a STATE RELIGION, the product of the adultery and lust of a mad king. Respectfully, the Brits are HOPELESS, when it comes to knowing how to govern themselves in the 21st century.


  14. ....continued...

    But maybe NOT totally hopeless, I’m amazed to read. Your high court in a case has ruled against public prayers. Thanks be to God! As for the Commons, and apart from the rather odd business of not actually having enough seats for the people to sit who are elected to be there...did I mention that the Brits are hopeless about governance?...Speaker Bercow may be right about any sort of prayer ruling not applying to them. At least if America is any guide in the matter.

    Yes, you heard me right. Both houses of the American Congress begin each day with...wait for it...a PRAYER! Now while the Congress DOES provide enough seats for its own members, it has been ruled that since there is no constitutional right or legal requirement to be a member of Congress (unlike the legal requirement for a child to attend school), then it’s OK for Congress to have a prayer – as if the Congress were a private club. Now you might think that some liberal Democrat (the only sensible people in Congress ARE liberal Democrats) would fight this silly idea. But unlike non-religious Britain which has a state religion, the politicians in religious America which does NOT have a state religion could not possibly be elected if they made any sort of a move to ban prayers in Congress, or any other overtly anti-religious thing for that matter.

    Yes, Britain obviously doesn’t know how to govern itself, but your American cousins, at least in matters of religion, are not really all that much better. Except that we DO thankfully have that written constitution and Bill of Rights to fight the Christians who only want everyone else to believe and practice exactly as they do.

  15. LOL Danny...

    I enjoyed that. We're all bloody hopeless at governing ourselves really.

    Apparently the English have a Bill of Rights, which, as it is dated somewhere in the 1600s, probably doesn't confer much in the way of rights for the average Joe, but reserves it all for 'those and such as those' who inhabited the top rungs of the English society of that time, and who still do today.

    Those born to positions of power and influence, mostly with some sort of title, almost always obtained in murky ways...just as today and complete disrespect for those below these ranks.

    Scotland, of course, doesn't have that. But as our correspondent above pointed out to me, the Church of Scotland isn't in fact a "state church", which means either that we are obliged to share England's one, as we are in some other things (Bank of ENGLAND for example), despite very few people belonging to the English or Episcopal church, or that we don't have one at all, but no one bothers about that, and just assumes the C of E to be the state religion for the whole of England. A subtle difference only, as you can see, because both end up with us having the C of E rammed down our throats.

    Well... I know you got here a bit late mate, (and probably your comment will not be seen by many) but I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Maybe at some time in the not too distant future you'd write a short piece on religion in your non religious state.... as an article?

  16. Christian countries are only that way because they murdered all the people who would not convert to the Christian religion because they knew that it was just a dishonest rip-off of their own pagan beliefs - that is why blasphemy was brought in to permanently shut up these people from revealing these facts.

    There should be no religion in any school, public authority or government. In fact they should be teaching the myths of Osiris, Horus, Mithra, Krishna, Buddha and all the hundreds of other SUN Gods and then people would get their eyes open to how the Jesus story is just the last of the EXACT same SUN God stories and that is why Holy Bible simply means SUN BOOK for that reason.