Storm of protest as prayers banned at Sevenoaks council meetings
PRAYERS have been banned at council meetings – sparking a storm of protest.
New chairman Dee Morris has chosen not to have a chaplain offer a blessing before Sevenoaks District Council meetings.
The town-hall tradition dates back to Elizabethan times.
Councillor Morris, a Christian, has decided not to follow her predecessor Bob Orridge, who had the Reverend Mark Griffin of St Luke's in Sevenoaks as chaplain.
Come and try us for FREE - no need to book just turn up! What's more if you join within 48 hours we will give you our corporate rate on your membership - that's just £35 per month and NO JOINING FEE
Terms: First class only is free. To qualify for corporate rate discount on your membership you must have joined within 48 hours of taking your free class.
Contact: 01763 290001
Valid until: Wednesday, April 30 2014
"The chairman before Cllr Orridge didn't have a chaplain," she explained.
"Cllr Orridge was particularly friendly with his local vicar so he chose to have one.
"Now I'm chairman I am not going to, like many other councils.
"It's because I am not particularly local.
"There's nothing ominous about it."
It comes after a High Court ruling that councils could not insist on prayers.
Fellow councillors have been left bemused by the decision.
Cllr Michael Horwood, who represents Eynsford, said: "Saying prayers before meetings has been a longstanding tradition and I am sorry we will not be continuing it.
"Although I respect the new chairman's decision I feel disappointed we've given up hundreds of years of tradition for the flimsical whim of the militant atheist 'pc brigade'."
Cllr Philip McGarvey, for Farningham, South Darenth and Horton Kirby said it was an example of "the tail wagging the dog".
"I am a practising Christian so I regret this decision.
"I am obliged to accept that the UK is no longer Christian by default. There are too many occasions when our Christian heritage is being undermined.
"Sadly we are instructed to accept that because a few might not want us to reaffirm our Christian ethos at a public meeting, then the rest of us cannot either.
"I would like to start meetings with a prayer, but we were not asked. It's the chairman's prerogative."
Church leaders were also unhappy.
Reverend Angus MacLeay from St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, said: "It would be great if there could be a chaplain.
"We value the work that is done by the district council and we want to pray for them and the wisdom in their decisions.
"I understand why people feel upset. It is always a concern if Christianity is being marginalised in a large society. It is good for Christians to be involved in prayer."
Mrs Morris has received support from some councillors.
Cllr Lorraine Stack, for Kemsing, said: "I fully support Mrs Morris."
"I was disappointed Anglican prayers were reintroduced, especially when I found out taxpayers' money pays for this 'service'."