An MP wants to re-introduce the reading of prayers at council meetings to stem what he sees as “a campaign against religious beliefs”.

Hendon representative Matthew Offord proposed a bill to Parliament yesterday calling for the optional re-introduction of the practice, which was outlawed among local authorities by the High Court last year.

The Conservative politician believes the ruling is an example of “a wave of attacks” on practices of faith, including, he says, the recently proposed introduction of same-sex marriage, of which he is an outspoken opponent.

Church-goer Mr Offord said: “I feel there is a clear trend of attacking religion at the moment. I believe, for example with the introduction of the gay marriage bill, that people are considered freakish if they believe in religion.

“Reading prayers of any religion before meetings is something members of my constituency feel is important. It is something I always liked and I was upset when it was banned.”

The National Secular Society successfully lodged a legal challenge against the practice in February last year after claiming it discriminated against non-religious councillors.

The court upheld the complaint on the basis local authorities had no power to hold prayers under the Local Government Act of 1972.

Mr Offord, proposing his first bill yesterday, tabled an amendment to the act that grants councils permission to hold prayers at their discretion.

The bill, supported by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, must get through a number of stages before it can be passed.

Mr Offord said: “I think there is a genuine trend against religious practices. Those of faith are made to feel like there is something wrong with them.

“Same-sex marriage is an attack on religion. They want to make significant changes to the religious belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

“They want to redefine it and that has taken the religious meaning out. In a multi-cultural area like Hendon, the reading of prayers at council meetings is important to members.

“These bills do not have a good track record of going through but I’m hoping it will.”