Eastbourne council’s pre-meeting prayers can continue

RELIGIOUS people attending council at Eastbourne Town Hall will still be allowed to say prayers before meetings start.

A landmark case heard earlier this month found that Bideford Town Council in Devon was wrong to include Christian worship as part of official proceedings after complaints from atheist councillor Clive Bone.

It has led to calls for councils across the country to make a distinct split between the goings on at local authorities and any religious practices of councillors and staff.

In Eastbourne, prayers have never been part of an official agenda, but are offered to councillors beforehand – and will continue to be.

A spokesman for Eastbourne Borough Council told the Herald, “Some years ago during the early 1990s, the introduction of the tradition of prayers at the start of full council meetings was proposed by the then mayor, Councillor David Stevens.

“Although this was a relatively common practice among other councils at the time, it was not something that had been done at Eastbourne Borough Council.

“In recognition of the fact some members would not wish to participate in such activity as part of the formal meeting, and in trying to maintain the focus of council meetings purely on council business, a compromise was agreed.

“The mayor’s chaplain would lead those members who wished it in private prayer, and in a separate location prior to the start of the council meeting.

“Other than making a room available, there is no input from council officers and the practice has continued.”

They confirmed this practice would continue but any future plans to incorporate prayers as a formal part of meetings would be ruled out.