PRAYERS should be scrapped from the start of Cotswold District Coouncil meetings because they are disrespectful.

That is the view of Cirencester councillor Gary Selwyn who has called for the traditional prayers to be replaced by a pledge.

Gary Selwyn told fellow members of Cotswold District Council that he was surprised a prayer was said at the start of council meetings, saying the council needed to be more "open, embracing and respectful" of people’s backgrounds and beliefs.

Cllr Selwyn, who was newly elected to the Watermoor ward in the May elections, raised the issue at a CDC full council meeting on Tuesday. He questioned why CDC supported a prayer when all members represent the people in the wards regardless of their religion.

However Carolyn Nicolle, chairman of the council, said all councillors pledge to do their best when they are elected but that prayer was an "opportunity to say something more".

"In my prayers I try to focus on things to which we can all subscribe," she replied.

"It is not about a religious statement or stance, as I fully appreciate the many different religions and faiths that are supported in our district, as well as the fact that there are people who do not believe."

The prayer at the start of the meeting is usually led by the chairman of the council with Cirencester vicar Leonard Doolan occasionally being asked to attend.

Canon Doolan said Cllr Selwyn should not enter meetings until after the prayer if he finds it offensive.

"Many of the CDC councillors are Christians, or are supportive at least of the work of the local churches in the district," he told the Standard.

"The magnificent churches of the Cotswolds contribute a huge amount to the history, spirit and economy of the area. A prayer being said for their work and for the people of the district would surely be in everyone's best interest. If they object it pledges them to nothing."

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