SAGUENAY, Que. — The Quebec mayor who would recite a prayer at the beginning of municipal council meetings says he’s surprised by the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling that the practice must be stopped.

Jean Tremblay told a news conference in Saguenay this morning he will comply with the judgment even though he doesn’t agree with it.

Tremblay says he was shaken and surprised by the decision, especially as the Quebec Court of Appeal had previously ruled unanimously in his favour.

The Supreme Court said the reading of a Catholic prayer at council meetings infringes on freedom of conscience and religion.

The decision had an immediate impact in some cities and towns across the country, with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson suspending prayers at a city council meeting and the mayor of Levis, Que., saying he’ll do the same next week.

Wednesday’s ruling ended an eight-year legal battle that pitted atheist Alain Simoneau and a secular-rights organization against Tremblay.

The Canadian Press