INVERNESS’S historic Kirking of the Council ceremony should be scrapped, according to the National Secular Society, which claims it involves "intellectually vulnerable primary school children".
Last week youngsters from seven primary schools took part in the 400-year-old ceremony which features a parade and service at Old High Kirk and blesses the work of elected councillors and officials.
But according to Alistair McBay, of the society, the Kirking is "an unacceptable intrusion of organised religion into the civic space".
In a letter to The Inverness Courier, he adds: "Intellectually vulnerable primary school children were additionally herded into taking part."
In February the society mounted a successful legal challenge over prayers being held at the beginning of local authority meetings in England and Wales.
However, it appears it has a fight on its hands if it wants an end Inverness’s Kirking tradition.
Councillor Allan Duffy, SNP councillor for Inverness West, yesterday denied the ceremony represented an intrusion of religion into civic matters.
"I spoke to a lot of people afterwards and there was no-one unhappy with the service," he said.
"If parents are happy for their children to attend, personally, I cannot see a problem in that."
Depute provost Councillor Bet McAllister also defended the involvement of primary schools.
"It was up to the schools whether they wanted to take part and obviously the parents were involved," said the Central ward Labour councillor.
"It was an invitation. It was nice to have the children there."
The service was conducted by the Rev Peter Nimmo, minister of Old High St Stephen’s Church, who rejected Mr McBay’s criticisms.
"This is for everyone in the community and it is inclusive," he said.
"There were people of different faiths, there were people representing the inter-faith group and undoubtedly, there were people of no faith - but it was their choice because they wanted to take part."