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Councillors against move to axe prayers before Norfolk County Council meetings

PUBLISHED: 06:30 22 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:17 22 July 2019

A motion will today call for Norfolk County Council to ditch prayers before full council meetings. Pic: Getty Images/Stockphoto

A motion will today call for Norfolk County Council to ditch prayers before full council meetings. Pic: Getty Images/Stockphoto

Archant

A decision will be made today on whether Norfolk County Council should scrap prayers at full council meetings - and a number of councillors have said they will not back the move.

Mick Castle. Picture by James BassMick Castle. Picture by James Bass

A short prayer is currently said at the start of each full council meeting at County Hall.

But, as reported, Mick Castle, independent county councillor for Yarmouth North and Central, has tabled a motion calling for it to be scrapped - and the council will vote on it at today's meeting.

Mr Castle said: "I have no disrespect towards anybody who has strong religious beliefs, but to me it feels they are now a bit of a minority.

"When I stand during them I try to be respectful, but in all honestly I don't feel especially marvellous about it. I think there is a time and a place for it and the council chamber isn't one of them."

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His motion was backed by the National Secular Society, which has written to every member of the council urging them to vote for it.

But Conservative county councillor John Ward, who represents Sprowston, said he would not.

He said: "I definitely think prayers should continue prior to full council meetings and will be voting to retain them. Prayers are held in both Houses of Parliament and have been since 1558. I think councillors, and MPs, need this Christian reflection prior to making decisions which affect the lives of many others."

County councillor Alexandra Kemp. Picture: Ian BurtCounty councillor Alexandra Kemp. Picture: Ian Burt

Alexandra Kemp, independent councillor for Clenchwarton and King's Lynn South, said: "Motions to council are normally about helping the people of Norfolk, but this motion to take away prayers at the start of full council won't do that.

"While this is a Christian country and Judaeo-Christian culture has shaped the UK's social and cultural development for the last two thousand years, the prayers before council always reflect values of tolerance and respect for other faiths and for people of no faith, and provide a civilising atmosphere of reflection for councillors, in the context of an often fraught and oppositional atmosphere."

And Thomas Smith, Conservative councillor for Gaywood South and a Methodist local preacher, said: "Many councillors, myself included, are religious, but not members of the established church, and we still find this time of prayer helpful to us."

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