A judge in Northern Colombia suspended praying in schools and other public institutions on Tuesday following a citizen’s claim to allow for freedom of religion.
Judge Alejandro Bonilla decreed that traditional morning prayers in schools, government institutions, police stations, military battalions and the province assembly must be halted in the coastal city of Cartagena.
The decision was taken following a claim made by citizen Miguel Angel Garces to end the practice of praying at the beginning of a session of the City Council.
In April 2013, the motion had been defeated by a majority in the council but had the support of seven Councillors.
The judge considered that “prayer can not be a matter of state, as this would imply an abuse in the exercise of its functions as it interferes with individual beliefs, intimate and particular people.”
The judge’s decision has raised a stir in Cartagena, a predominantly Catholic city.
However, according to the judge praying in state institutions should halt because “it may not be as widespread a cultural element.”
The ruling added that the civil authorities can not impose this mandatory exercise and thus ignore religious freedom.
In opposition, City Councillor, Dubinia Torres said that they must not allow themselves to be “silenced” and invited colleagues in the council aswell as the public of Cartagena to join together in prayer to protest against the measure.
Cesar Pion, also a Councillor, expressed his regret at the judge’s decision and said he never forced anyone to take part in the prayers.
An action for the annulment of the decree has already been presented before the judge.