Challenge to Mildura council’s prayer adds to a growing list of councils facing calls for secular change

Si Gladman / 16 July 2021

A councillor at the Mildura Rural City Council is on a mission to “remove the direct influence of religion” from council meetings by replacing the opening Christian prayer with something more inclusive.

Earlier this week, Councillor Jodi Reynolds announced on her Facebook page her intention to move a motion to replace the prayer with an affirmation.

Currently, at the start of each council meeting councillors are asked to stand for the recital of a prayer which calls on God to, “Guide us, we pray, in our deliberations”.

“The reason I am doing this is to remove the direct influence of religion from the Council Chamber,” she wrote.

“By removing the prayer and using an affirmation we can make our decisions based on the guiding principles of the Code of Conduct we all agreed to, the laws and regulations that ensure that our decisions are fair, balanced, and consistent while still pledging to work in harmony to serve everyone in the community.”

The challenge to the imposition of prayer makes the Victorian council the latest in a growing list of local governments across Australia facing calls for secular change.

As the Rationalist Society of Australia has been reporting in recent weeks, individual councillors at Boroondara council in Victoria and Shoalhaven council in New South Wales are fighting what they claim to be religious-based discrimination. We also understand that King Island Council in Tasmania is considering removing the opening prayer.

In response to her post, Councillor Reynolds received a number of comments in support of the proposal, while others attacked her.

“It is not to remove religion from the hearts of Councillors, or the council itself, or the people of the region. Nothing could ever do that. Faith is a source of comfort and solace to many and I would never seek take to that away,” Councillor Reynolds wrote. 

“In our Council prayer we ask God to, ‘Guide us, we pray, in our deliberations’. But which God are we calling on? The God that asks us to love our neighbours, the one that disapproves of gay marriage, the one that loves all of us unconditionally or the one that tells us abortion is a sin?”

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Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at sigladman@rationalist.com.au or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman

Image: Matheus Ferrero (Unsplash)

All the more reason.