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House of parliament Image by Adam Derewecki from Pixabay header2.jpg
House of parliament Image by Adam Derewecki from Pixabay.jpg

'We've seen an erosion of the Christian heritage of our nation quite enough' says MP following latest challenge to prayers in Parliament

by Cara Bentley

The daily prayers in the Houses of Parliament have been criticised again for giving Christians preferential treatment. 

Every day that parliament sits, the speaker's chaplain leads prayers and reads scripture, asking God that MPs "never lead the nation wrongly through love of power" and for the Holy Spirit's guidance.

Steve Double MP described it as "just a moment for us to remind ourselves, why we're there and ask for God's help and strength and guidance as we go about our business for the day."

Those attending prayers can secure their set in the House of Commons for the day and those not attending can excuse themselves by placing a 'prayer card' on the back of a seat, reserving their seat for the day. 

However, according to Humanists UK, only those attending Select Comittees can use these and if they are not, they have to sit through prayers if they are to secure a good seat. 

Double, the Christian MP for St Austell and Newquay, told Premier those not attending prayers don't miss out: "That isn't the case because you can put your prayer card in before prayers take place, choose not to be in the chamber whilst prayers happen and then go into the chamber the moment prayers are over and claim your seat. So, it doesn't actually provide you with any particular great advantage over anyone else. If you want your seat, don't want to go to prayers, you're still able to do that."

The campaign group has launched another petition to try to change the tradition into 'a time for reflection', encompassing all religions and none, more like a 'thought for the day'. 

Double opposes the idea, saying: "I think we have seen an erosion of the Christian heritage and foundation of our nation quite enough, as far as I'm concerned. We still recognise the Christian heritage of our country in Parliament in a number of ways, prayers is only one of those ways and I certainly would want to continue to maintain that sense, that daily reminder, that we are a nation that is very much built on Christian values and a very strong Christian heritage and we are very much building on that foundation from our history."

Richy Thompson, Director of public affairs at Humanists UK told Premier: "If you look at the British Social Attitudes Survey, you'll find that most people are not religious and of the rest, a lot of them are religions other than the Church of England or even in Christianity. So, something like a time for reflection would help reflect that diversity and mean that the spiritual guidance which is provided at the start of each day-session is done in a way that means that everybody can benefit from that, not just those who subscribe to a particular religion."

Thompson added that it has become a bigger problem recently, with Conservatives holding such a big majority and therefore needing more people sitting on one side of benches.

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