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Council prayers ruling starts national debate

Media reaction to the judgement on council prayers last week has inevitably been mixed while the public reaction has been strongly supportive of the National Secular Society.

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As we predicted, certain newspapers were hostile and at times hysterical.

The Mail and the Telegraph were just about apoplectic and their right-wing columnists went to town on the abuse (See our Media Round-Up). The NSS was portrayed as "fanatical", "pompous", "despots" and any other insulting epithet you can think of.

But the hostility doesn't seem to be shared by the consumers of that media. It appears our success at the High Court has started a national conversation about secularism – and that can only be a good thing. When there is a comment facility available under these attacks, the popular opinion is overwhelmingly in our favour.

The usual gang of Christian propagandists were, of course, given the lion's share of commercial media space. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey seemed ubiquitous with his familiar cries of persecution. Naturally he perceived our judicial review as an outright attack on the Christian faith, as did the more traditionalists Christians that his reponse has mislead.

But so extreme were his claims that he ended up sounding like some kind of tyrannical theocrat who thinks only Christians are entitled to rights and all lesser mortals must fall in line.

Even the Independent wasn't very sympathetic in its reporting, which led one of its readers to write of his disappointment in today's letter's column . Not only was the reporting cursory and one-sided, it wasn't very informative.

The BBC, which has a duty to provide balance, provoked a mass of complaints to the NSS about the all too predictable bias in its coverage.

The Daily Mail gave its front page over to claiming that this was the end of Christianity in Britain and followed this up with a non-story about prayers not being removed from parliament. The Guardian editorialised that this could represent the beginning of disestablishment from the bottom up.

Possibly the most disturbing aspect of the reaction is that not a single MP or peer came out to support the judgment. Instead, they appeared content to allow the likes of Eric Pickles and Nadine Dorries represent the views of our elected representatives.

Support did however come from a surprising source – Times Newspapers.

Read on



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