UK peer insists prayer Bill is ‘divisive’
Peers debating a Government backed Bill have been warned by Nicholas Le Poer Trench, the earl of Clancarty, that ‘institutionalising’ religion in any local authority meeting ‘must in the modern age be insensitive and crosses what many people would think is today’s acceptable line’.
According to this report, the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill was launched in response to a High Court ruling that town halls had no statutory powers to summon councillors to prayers. It was drafted with assistance from the Department of Communities and Local Government and is being carried through the House of Lords by Lord Cormack, above.
Lord Cormack said the Bill was ‘a good, sensible, modest measure’, adding that religion was:
Part of the very fabric of our society.
I emphasise to your Lordships that this is permissive legislation. There are no obligations. If the town council of Puddleton-in-the-Marsh decides it does not want to begin its meetings with prayers, it does not have to do so. If, on the other hand, it decides that it wants the local vicar, Methodist minister, rabbi or imam to lead it in prayer, that can happen.
The Bill does not specify that prayers have to be according to the Christian faith, meaning any faith can be represented or period of meditation encouraged.
The Bill does not specify which God should be prayed to or religion followed. I think that if the Bill passes, we will have a recipe for divisiveness and storing up potential problems in the long term.
Is not the wisest course for councils to be scrupulously impartial with respect to the beliefs and non-beliefs held by the residents of a local area, while at the same time having a presence at, for example, the celebration of cultural and religious festivals where appropriate to do so?
His words indicate that he has a far better grip on reality than his uncle, Brinsley Le Poer Trench, the 8th Earl of Clancarty, who founded a UFO Study Group at the House of Lords.
Trench was a firm believer in flying saucers, and in particular, the Hollow Earth hypothesis, discussed in his book Secret of the Ages: UFOs from Inside the Earth. He also claimed that he could trace his descent from 63,000 BCE, when beings from other planets had landed on Earth in spaceships.
Most humans, he said in 1981, were descended from these aliens:
This accounts for all the different colour skins we’ve got here.
A few of these early aliens did not come from space, he explained, but emerged through tunnels from a civilisation which “still existed beneath the Earth’s crust”. There were seven or eight of these tunnels altogether, one at the North Pole, another at the South Pole, and others in such places as Tibet.
I haven’t been down there myself. but from what I gather [these beings] are very advanced.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, who is backing the Bill, said he believed this piece of legislative balderdash was concerned with:
Freedom of local choice, freedom of religion, and freedom from a legal ruling that removed local democratic choice.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last year introduced laws protecting parish council from legal challenges over holding prayers, stating he had:
Stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish.
The Bill will now be debated at committee.
Hat tip: Ernest Jackson