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Bridport mayor under fire for church boycott
Bridport mayor David Rickard has come under fire again after boycotting the church service for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
His decision to let deputy mayor Geoff Ackerman do the honours has been condemned.
Coun Rickard’s refusal to attend the Jubilee service at St Mary’s Church on June 3 follows his controversial axing of prayers at council meetings last year.
Coun Rickard defended his position saying: “I don’t do God which is why we got rid of prayers at meetings.”
He said there was nothing in the rules and regulations about being mayor that meant he had to have a particular religion.
Coun Rickard said: “It is my personal belief that religion should not have the part it does in civic life.
“There is nothing in the Local Government Act that mentions prayers, God, it doesn’t even mention the Queen.
“Local authorities do not have the same allegiance to the established church or the monarchy that Parliament does.
“Bits of that went out in Victorian times but the actual Local Government Act was 1972.
“So as far as I am concerned it is completely irrelevant to local government.”
Coun Rickard said he’d made an exception with the Remembrance Day service last year.
“The public Remembrance process is relevant to everybody.
“You don’t have to be religious, the fact that the service is held in church is an historic thing.
“Personally I would prefer it wasn’t.”
Bridport team Rector the Rev Andrew Evans said he was told the mayor was not going to the community service at St Mary’s for the Queen’s Jubilee on June 3.
“The mayor is not going to attend and that is causing some adverse comment.
“My personal view is it makes me sad.
“This is a big town occasion and I think it is sad if the office of mayor isn’t being represented by the current mayor.”
Father Peter Edwards, team vicar of the Bridport team ministry added: “It is obviously a very important day in the life of the nation.
“My personal view is that I think it is unfortunate, even disappointing, if the mayor is not able to be present at the events to mark that important occasion.
“My perception is that the mayors of most towns and communities will be marking the event in some way.
“I am sure he is right there is no legal obligation.
“It is custom and practice rather than statute, nevertheless I think a lot of people will notice that he is not there.”
Bridport district councillor Frances McKenzie said: “I am not surprised but it is not very good.
“If his personal view is he doesn’t do religion he shouldn’t be mayor in the first place.
“The deputy is going in his place but he shouldn’t have to.
“Everybody knows that part of being the mayor is going to civic services – it is part of the package.
“It is not at all respectful to the Queen, either.”
Deputy Mayor Coun Geoff Ackerman will attend the Jubilee service as well as the county Jubilee service in Wimborne on May 27.
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Prayers at meetings axed
MAYOR David Rickard’s decision to boycott the Jubilee church service comes after he decided to introduce a short time of quiet contemplation in place of prayers at council meetings.
The move – after he became mayor last May – provoked a storm of outrage but many people also wrote to the Bridport News in support.
Coun Rickard outlined his plans to keep the clergy involved in religious elements of the mayoral year but to dispense with prayers and welcome those of all faiths at civic occasions.
He said the aim of having a moment of contemplation was to include those of different faiths as well as those who had no religion.
Coun Rickard, who is married to Anne with one son, is an ecologist by profession and worked for the Thames Water Authority before retiring. He lived in Martinstown before moving to Bridport about six years ago. Coun Rickard is also a member of TransitionTown Bridport.
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