On Friday 16 January the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill, which aims to put beyond doubt the power of local councils to begin meetings with prayer [for which see our first-ever post in February 2012 on R (National Secular Society & Anor) v Bideford Town Council  EWHC 175 (Admin)] had a fairly brief report stage and third reading in the Commons.
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con) moved a New Clause (Judaeo-Christian tradition) to insert into the Bill:
“In observing the provisions in this Act, councils shall keep in mind the pre-eminence of the Judaeo-Christian tradition as the historical foundation of the United Kingdom.”
Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con) moved a series of amendments, the cumulative effect of which would be to require prayers at council meetings:
- to last for not more than three minutes;
- to be authorised by resolution of a two-thirds majority of the members of the council in a meeting called specifically for that purpose; and
- to require the prior consent of the electorate through a local referendum.
Both the New Clause and the amendments were withdrawn. The unamended Bill was read the third time passed; and it now goes to the Lords.
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