Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 10:28 UK

Keep Thought sacred, urges DUP

Old-fashioned BBC microphone
A religious broadcast has been part of the Today programme since it began

The DUP has called on the BBC not to change its Thought for the Day slot on Radio Four's Today programme.

The BBC Trust is to consider whether secular and humanist views should be aired, amid growing pressure.

While Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist thinkers have spoken in the slot, secular or atheist viewpoints have not been used.

The party's motion calls on the BBC to maintain the tradition that speakers talk about faith.

It argues that "the United Kingdom is founded on Christian principles".

The motion was tabled by Strangford MP Iris Robinson, and has been signed by her husband, party leader Peter Robinson, as well as South Antrim MP William McCrea and Upper Bann MP David Simpson.

It follows comments by Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer that the rules for who can speak on Thought for the Day may change.

"The BBC Trust is currently considering this question," he told the programme Feedback. "They may well suggest we should take in a wider range of voices."

A religious broadcast has been part of the Today programme since it began 50 years ago. For more than 30 years this has taken the form of Thought for the Day - two minutes 45 seconds of faith-based reflection at quarter to eight.

Pressure on the Today programme to allow a non-religious voice on Thought for the Day has been mounting for some years.

In 2002, more than 100 public figures wrote to the BBC Governors demanding the "ban" on non-religious speakers to be lifted.

In response, Professor Richard Dawkins, a high profile atheist, was asked to broadcast an alternative Thought for the Day , but his thought - that "we have been born and we are going to die, but before we die we have time to understand why we were born" - was broadcast in a different slot on the programme.

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