Adelaide’s mayor has launched an inspiring defence of separation of church and state in a speech that heralded the replacement of prayers with a secular and more inclusive practice to open council meetings.
During a committee meeting of councillors last week, Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith said separation of church and state was a “long-standing tradition” in Australia and argued it was “entirely unacceptable” for council to direct members of staff to say prayers.
She shared her personal story of being forced to participate in religious practices as a child and labelled the efforts of organised religions to impose themselves on everyone as “oppressive”.
At the committee meeting, Dr Lomax-Smith seconded a motion to formally remove the prayer from the council’s meeting procedures to instead insert a secular pledge – although she remained critical of the ‘American’ nature of pledges.
The 7-3 vote in the committee means that it will almost certainly pass as part of the amended Code of Practice for Meeting Procedures at the next council meeting.
The committee’s decision ends a long-running controversy over the issue, which escalated in recent months as a Christian councillor, Henry Davis, insisted on reciting Christian prayers aloud in defiance of Dr Lomax-Smith’s decision to ask councillors to pray or reflect in silence.
Last week, Councillor Kieran Snape moved that Adelaide council adopt the following non-denominational pledge in replacement of the prayer.
May we in this meeting speak honestly, listen attentively, think clearly and decide wisely for the good governance of the City of Adelaide and the well-being of those we serve.
In a speech, Councillor Snape said the pledge was a compromise solution that avoided picking one faith over other faiths, or non-religious beliefs.
He said Adelaide council had already fallen behind on the issue given that many other councils in South Australia had replaced prayer rituals.
Councillor Davis repeatedly interrupted Dr Lomax-Smith during her speech on the issue. Earlier, he used his speech on the motion to accuse “woke Leftism” of persecuting people of faith.
“Removing the prayer and being so afraid of it is about a Left agenda to erode our cultural beliefs and denigrate those who actually are of faith,” he said.
Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.
Image: Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith (Facebook)