Page last updated at 21:45 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Council to keep meeting prayers

Councillor Brian Boughton
Councillor Boughton wore his iPod earphones during council prayers

A Devon council has voted to continue saying prayers at the start of one of its monthly meetings following a debate over whether to scrap the tradition.

The vote was taken by Dartmouth Town Council after Councillor Brian Boughton, who is an atheist, wore his iPod earphones during prayers.

He denies playing his iPod at the time but says the period of reflection prior to meetings should be non-religious.

However, the council will carry on with prayers before full council meetings.

Mr Boughton said: "I accept that they want to continue with the tradition but that leaves the problem for those like myself who do not wish to participate.

'Disturbance' caused

"I was accused of being disrespectful which I never intended.

"Listening to the iPod was a way to get the debate going but I never had it switched on.

"I've asked the mayor to consider opening up the prayers to other people.

"It is good to reflect quietly when one is preparing to do public business and to try to reach decisions that are for the benefit of the community.

"The basic idea is good but why should it be restricted to the Christian faith and the Church of England?"

Councillors should have the respect, if they wish not to participate, either to stand quietly or if they do not want to be in the chamber there's nothing stopping them from waiting outside
Councillor Debbie Morris, Mayor of Dartmouth

Councillor Debbie Morris, Mayor of Dartmouth, said Mr Boughton's actions with his iPod had caused "quite a disturbance" among fellow councillors who had thought his actions were disrespectful.

"It was decided at a meeting of the general purposes committee that the status quo is how councillors believed we should go and that we should keep up the tradition," she said.

"It then went to a full council meeting and the same decision was made so it was a democratic process."

She added that at no time was Mr Boughton asked to pray nor was he asked to leave the chamber.

"Councillors should have the respect, if they wish not to participate, either to stand quietly or if they do not want to be in the chamber there's nothing stopping them from waiting outside," she said.

"I do believe that we should encompass all faiths and the prayer said at the last meeting was actually written by a victim of war who was basically asking for peace through all religions - not just through the Church of England."



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