It’s right that councils are left to reach own decision

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It is quite right that people should be able to pray if they want to – and that’s true when you’re talking about councillors, politicians or any other sections of the community.

All too often we can get ourselves tied up in the rights, wrongs and wherefores of a situation without engaging an ounce of common sense first.

When it comes to religion, every faith should be treated with respect.

That’s just as true for Christians as it is for Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists or anyone else.

When the National Secular Society supported a former councillor who took legal action against the town council he used to represent, many were outraged by the outcome.

Bideford Town Council was told it must stop holding prayers during official proceedings following the complaint from the man – an atheist who had argued that it might offend non-believers.

The leader of Fareham Borough Council, Sean Woodward, was one of those who insisted that the ruling would not stop him and other councillors from taking part in prayers.

The government has been quick to fast-track a change in the law to make sure that people like Mr Woodward won’t subsequently be prosecuted for praying before meetings.

And we’re sure that most people will agree that was the correct course of action to take.

Anyone who finds the practice of saying a prayer offensive has the free will to step out of the room for a moment, or wait respectfully until those who do want to take part have finished.

It should be up to individual councils to reach a consensus on this issue and no-one else.

There are those who don’t believe that religion and politics should be mixed.

And we agree that prayer sessions should take place before council meetings start, to ensure that everyone understands that it’s not part of the day’s business, rather a tradition that some choose to uphold.

Of course, that should also be the case for those who aren’t Christian, but want to say prayers of their own.