Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill

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 [2012] 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Both the New Clause and the amendments were withdrawn.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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  1. Pingback: Religion and law round-up – 8th March | Law & Religion UK

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