Wales

Call to end prayers before Denbighshire council meetings

Denbighshire County Hall, Ruthin Image copyright Denbighshire council
Image caption Paul Penlington objects to "the use of the council chambers for acts of worship"

A councillor is calling for an end to prayers before council meetings and the provision of a prayer room instead.

A prayer is said before the business in the main chamber gets under way at Denbighshire council, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

But Prestatyn North councillor Paul Penlington said it was unfair on people who did not want to participate.

The authority said the tradition was challenged in 2012 but the majority of councillors opted to continue.

"Council meetings should be conducted without anyone feeling compelled to participate in prayers, or feeling excluded, or that they have to absent themselves from any part of the meeting," said Mr Penlington.

"I sit quietly waiting for the meeting to begin. I'm not opposed to religion at all, and have suggested a prayer room be provided for those who wish to pray at any time.

"I am only objecting to the use of the council chambers for acts of worship, despite the wishes of those who do not wish to participate."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In 2017, 13 out of Wales' 22 local authorities said prayers before meetings

Three of Denbighshire's 47 county councillors usually sit out when others stand for prayers - which Mr Penlington said had led to complaints from other members.

Prestatyn North county councillor Tony Flynn, who is a devout Christian, said he had raised the issue with officers but was unaware of complaints being made.

"I did ask why people didn't stand when invited and it was explained to me that it was their individual belief and that's fine," he said.

A Denbighshire council spokesman said councillors agreed to continue with prayers after a court case was brought in 2012 which ruled prayers could be said as long as councillors were not formally summoned to attend.

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