Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has moved to restore the legal basis for Devon’s councils to hold prayers at the start of business.
However, Mr Pickles interpretation of the law has been questioned and the move could be challenged in court.
Council prayers increasingly look set to become a battle between the Government and the courts at ever higher levels.
A spokesman for Devon Humanists said: “This doesn’t have to spend years going through the courts. Now is the time for councils to be inclusive for all. We believe that local authorities should recognise the diversity of their local population and act to remove disincentives to involvement and engagement.
“Though the practice of exclusively Christian prayers may have been appropriate when we were all of one religion, we are now communities of many beliefs. In a modern society, councils should not be closely identified with any single faith or belief system, particularly one which openly disapproves of the lifestyle choices of so many of us.
“Indeed, many people recognise this. A new YouGov poll has shown that 55% of respondents were against councils holding prayers with 26% of respondents in favour. Twenty percent were uncertain.
“Many of us simply want an efficient business unit providing services and solving our problems. We don’t believe that Devon Councils need to provide moral leadership and guidance.
“The average age of a councillor in England has actually risen in a decade from 55 to 59, while 56 per cent of young people have not even registered to vote. We should all be concerned when elected members are drawn from a narrow section of our society and that there is real disengagement from the democratic process.
“We know that society is changing, but so is religion in Britain.
“With ‘moderate’ mainstream Christianity declining, and evangelical faith becoming more evident, the potential conflicts between religion and society are many: homosexuality; abortion; relationships outside of marriage; safe sex; contraception; drug use and harm reduction; adoption; education; equality and diversity; scientific research; divorce; end of life; gender equality; etc.
“The solution is to compromise and to move towards the ideal of a level playing field.
“To their credit, Devon’s inter-faith agencies have considered this issue and now adopt a neutral position in the form of a time of quiet reflection – not directed or dominated by any one faith or belief system.
“This compromise, along with other progressive reforms, would truly reflect the changing nature of our communities. Now is the time for Devon’s Councils to embrace the future and to be inclusive for all.”