Bideford Council to appeal High Court prayer ruling

Bideford Town Council is to appeal a High Court ruling that found that it is unlawful for prayers to be held before council meetings under the Local Government Act (1972).

Last week Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the authority had over-reached its powers because it had insisted that prayers were part of the formal meeting. Had councillors not been formally summoned to attend the meeting the prayers would not have been technically unlawful (10 February 2012).

The claim was launched after atheist councillor Clive Bone was elected to the council in 2007. He made attempts to stop the prayers through motions at the council but lost the vote.

Bone launched a legal challenge with the support of the Secular Society, instructing DAC Beachcroft partner Stephen Hocking to challenge Bideford Town Council in Devon over whether it could hold prayers as part of the normal course of the meeting.

Matrix Chambers’ David Wolfe was drafted in to go head-to-head with 3 Hare Court’s James Dingemans QC, who was instructed by Aughton Ainsworth Solicitors solicitor Tom Ellis for the town council. It is understood that the same teams will head to the Court of Appeal.