Prayers in Parliament

The Victorian Parliament will debate a proposal to remove the Lord’s Prayer before each parliamentary sitting.

Ellen Sandell, Greens member for Melbourne, told The Age she is seeking to replace the prayer with a version that reflects Victoria’s secular and multifaith community.

“We seek an alternative that brings us into line with other Parliaments around the world,” she said.

Ms Sandell suggested adopting the system used in the ACT Legislative Assembly, where there is an Indigenous acknowledgment before a minute of silent reflection.

She is also open to the system used in the US Congress, where the prayers of different faiths are rotated.

“It’s just a matter of making sure Parliament is representing Victorian society and not just those of Christian faith,” she said.

Not all members of Parliament are supportive of the proposal, with Liberal MP Tim Smith accusing the Greens of disrespecting parliamentary traditions. Ms Sandell and fellow Greens MP Sam Hibbins have been entering the parliamentary chamber after the daily prayer is recited, a practice that has angered Mr Smith.

“This exhibits a total lack of respect and almost contempt for the ancient traditions of this house,” Mr Smith said in Parliament.

The proposal has reignited a debate on the separation of state and church and the relevance of Christianity in a secular society.

The removal of the Lord’s Prayer from Parliament can be interpreted as further confirmation of Christianity’s waning influence in Australia public life. Christianity is no longer the dominant force it once was and this can be a confronting reality for Christians to face.

The Greens are expected to refer the proposal to a committee for consideration next week. The motion will need the support of a majority of MPs before it can be enforced.

A similar proposal was put through the Federal Parliament last year, but failed to win the support of the Senate.

Does the Lord’s Prayer still have a place in Parliament? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

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