An independent councillor has come under fire from town hall colleagues in Shropshire after using his iPhone to listen to music during prayers at the start of a council meeting.
Pat McCarthy, who sits on Wellington Town Council, was accused by a colleague of behaving in a “disgusting” manner after donning a pair of headphones to listen to Bob Dylan during the Lord’s Prayer on Tuesday night.
The councillor’s decision to wear the headphones during the prayers came a month after his colleagues rejected a motion calling for the Christian “homily” to be taken off the council’s agenda.
The 53-year-old, who represents the town’s College ward, had proposed a motion for the prayers to be held on a voluntary basis five minutes before council meetings.
Mr McCarthy said he felt the “compulsory” prayers should not be on the council’s official agenda and could deter non-Christians from standing for election.
“It makes the whole council into a Christian enclave - a club with insiders and outsiders,” he said. I just feel that this is totally wrong - no-one has explained to me why we should have prayers at a council meeting.”
Mr McCarthy also described the criticism of his decision to listen to music on his iPhone as completely over the top.
“Wellington Town Council is like going back to the 1950s,” he said. “I think it’s their intolerance that is shameful. I have bent over backwards to try and make them see that they can facilitate my needs by having prayers at a pre-meeting, but they are totally intolerant to any change.”
Speaking last month, the Anglican Bishop of Shrewsbury strongly defended the right of the council to say prayers before its meetings.
The Rt Rev Mark Rylands said: “The saying of prayers before meetings is an integral part of the British system of government. Those who do not wish to pray can easily absent themselves from the prayers or merely remain silent while those around them pray.”