I read this and was gobsmacked. A British Minister actively going against the judiciary, telling people to ignore judicial pronouncements and violating the basic principle of separating church from state. Mr. Pickles, you should be ashamed of yourself, pandering to medieval religious claptrap. I quote
Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, is poised to use new powers to strike down the restriction, which stems from a legal challenge launched to the tradition by an atheist parish councillor.
Mr Justice Ouseley issued a declaration that there was no “lawful” place for prayer during formal proceedings.
It came after Clive Bone, a former member of Bideford Town Council in Devon, brought a legal challenge against the tradition of opening council meetings with prayers.
He argued that the custom left non-believers excluded but the council has twice voted to retain the prayers despite Mr Bone’s complaints.
His case was backed by the National Secular Society which campaigns for the separation of religion and the state.
Yesterday the judge rejected claims that the practice was against Mr Bone’s human rights or amounted to discrimination.
But he nevertheless concluded that it was “not lawful” under the Local Government Act to say prayers as part of formal council meetings.
Secular campaigners hailed it as a victory for equality but Bishops and MPs said the ruling threatened Britain’s Christian heritage.
Mr Pickles said the judgment undermined the “fundamental and hard-fought British liberty” to worship.
"Christianity plays an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation,” he said.
“Public authorities – be it Parliament or a parish council – should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish.”
However he pointed to the Localism Act – already on the statute book and due to come into effect in the next few weeks – which gives councils a new “power of competence” to determine their own procedures.
"[It] allows them to undertake any general action that an individual could do unless it is specifically prohibited by law,” he said.
“Logically, this includes prayers before meetings."
A source close to Mr Pickles said: “We want to give a reassurance to councils that they shouldn’t panic about this and the general power of competence gives them the protection to continue to have prayers if they want to.”
When the act comes into force it will also give Mr pickles the power to strike down the restriction, if needed.