05/27/2013 04:57 EDT | Updated 07/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Prayers OK before city council meetings, Quebec court rules

Quebec’s Court of Appeal has ruled that prayers said before city council meetings in Saguenay don’t infringe on a person’s freedom of religion.

In 2011, Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of local resident Alain Simoneau and the group Quebec Secular Movement, concluding the prayers said before council meetings and the crucifix hanging in the council chambers were discriminatory.

Saguenay Mayor Jean Tremblay, an outspoken Catholic, refused to comply and appealed the decision.

Today, the province’s highest court ruled Tremblay is allowed to maintain his religious observances, saying the prayers don’t come into conflict with the moral convictions of residents who aren’t religious.

The court of appeal also stated neither the city’s neutrality or democratic process were undermined by the religious symbols.

It did, however, question how the mayor argued his case. It said Tremblay didn’t deal with Simoneau’s complaint properly, saying he used his position as mayor of Saguenay to promote his religious views.

Saguenay is a town of just under 145,000 people, about 210 kilometres north of Quebec City.