Bid to scrap prayers at Norfolk County Council meetings fails

The chamber at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Dan Grimmer

The chamber at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

Prayers will continue to be said before full Norfolk County Council meetings, after a bid to scrap them was defeated.

Mick Castle. Picture by James Bass

Mick Castle. Picture by James Bass - Credit: Archant

A short prayer is said at the start of each full council meeting at County Hall.

But Mick Castle, independent county councillor for Yarmouth North and Central, had tabled a motion calling for it to be scrapped.

Mr Castle had said: "I have no disrespect towards anybody who has strong religious beliefs, but to me it feels they are now a bit of a minority.

"When I stand during them I try to be respectful, but in all honestly I don't feel especially marvellous about it. I think there is a time and a place for it and the council chamber isn't one of them."

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During the debate at County Hall today, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Maxfield said: "I was minded to vote to retain prayers, as we are a matter of days from getting Boris Johnson as prime minister and we will need all the help we can get."

Council leader Andrew Proctor said: "The prayers do not last very long and are before the meeting starts, so no-one is forced to take part or attend.

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"To me, they give focus."

Conservative councillor Bev Spratt said: "Do not forget that, in Norfolk, we have about 680 churches, most of them open all day.

"Also, we have got the joy of having Christmas. I don't know if we're going to be having a motion of getting rid of that and Easter?"

Independent leader Sandra Squire said: "We would prefer it if it was done on your time and we did not have to stand here and listen to it.

"Religion and politics do not mix."

But all the Conservative group voted to retain the prayers - and only 15 councillors supported Mr Castle's motion.

It means the council's chaplain will continue to offer a prayer at the start of full council meetings.

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