Poll: Bid to drop prayers at Northern Ireland council rejected - do you agree?
A Green Party motion to replace prayers at meetings of Ards and North Down Borough Council with a moment of silent reflection has been heavily defeated.
The council's practice of a Bible reading and prayers before each full meeting became a divisive political issue earlier this month.
It followed in the wake of a row at Belfast City Council after Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister dispensed with prayers before her installation dinner in September.
In Ards and North Down, Green councillor John Barry put forward a motion to replace the religious practices with a moment of reflection.
But the proposal, debated at Wednesday's meeting, faced strong opposition.
DUP mayor Robert Adair said he had been contacted by Christians, non-Christians and people of other faiths, all supporting the retention of the Bible reading and prayers. "I welcome the defeat of the motion," he said last night.
"I think this motion came at a time when Northern Ireland faces uncertain political times, with no Assembly.
"The only form of local government we have is our councils, and at a time like this of political uncertainty we should all be working together for our constituents and the people who elected us.
"We should be talking about job creation, about underachievement in education, the pressing issues in the health service, and the attraction of inward investment to this borough.
"But sadly, some people have wasted our time by bringing divisive motions to the council.
"Now, more than ever, we need to work together."
The motion was defeated by 27 votes to eight, with two abstentions.
Councillor Barry said he was disappointed at the defeat of his motion, and by the tone of the debate.
"I and my party were called 'cultural Marxists', promoting post-modernism and more or less advocating an intolerant authoritarianism," Mr Barry said.
He also deplored the "flimsy" arguments of his critics, who he claimed suggested that a moment's silence instead of a prayer was a "ban on prayer", an attack on Christianity, and would somehow lead to the banning of Christmas.