A FURORE has broken out after Salisbury District Council told staff to avoid using the phrase ‘singing from the same hymn sheet' – in case it offends atheists.

In a style guide handed out to staff the council said the common saying, which has been used for centuries, could offend non-believers.

Following criticism in the national press over the weekend the council has denied it has placed a ban on the use of these phrases in any of its written communications.

A statement said: “The council has an editorial style guide that offers advice and guidance to some of our staff who regularly write for the public.

“The council has made great strides in recent years to ensure all our communications are in plain English, clear, consistent and understandable to all who read it."

The council maintains the reference to the hymn sheet and atheists was included in the guide just as an illustrative explanation, to help staff think about the purpose is of certain phrases, and if they will be understood by all.

The style guide also instructs staff to use the phrase ‘colour visual impairment’ rather than ‘colour blind’, despite the Royal National Institute for the Blind avoiding the term ‘visual impairment’ in favour of ‘blind’ and ‘partially sighted’.

  • For an in-depth report see the November 13 edition of the Salisbury Journal.