Prominent McGowan government member Alannah MacTiernan will support the removal of Christian prayers from the upper house of the West Australian parliament.
In a letter to the Rationalist Society of Australia, Minister MacTiernan said it was now time to modernise the parliament and replace the opening Christian prayer in the Legislative Council with something more inclusive.
She confirmed that she would work with Brian Walker MLC, whose Legalise Cannabis Western Australia party has proposed moving a motion to remove the prayer ritual from the formal proceedings of the upper house.
In responding to questions from the RSA’s WA spokesperson, Vicki Caulfield, Minister MacTiernan said: “I do think it is time to modernise the formal start of each parliamentary day.”
“I am in favour of a statement that focuses all members on the nature of the task before us and which calls us to act with honour, diligence and integrity.
“However, given the wide diversity of religious views in our community, this should not be embedded in any faith paradigm. I will of course work with Dr Brian Walker to see how progress can be made.”
During a debate in parliament late last year, Minister MacTiernan hinted that she would be “onside” if Dr Walker pushed to replace the prayer. Legalise Cannabis Western Australia has since flagged its intention to do so by placing a motion on the notice paper in the name of Dr Walker’s colleague Sophia Moermond.
The upper house opens each day with the recital of a prayer that calls on “Almighty God, creator of the universe, giver of life…” to bless the Legislative Council’s work and that commits the elected members to make decisions “always to the advancement of Thy glory”. Plus, members of the house are then asked to read the Lord’s Prayer.
Ms Caulfied said the RSA welcomed Minister MacTiernan’s commitment to replace the prayer with something more inclusive.
“We have a very diverse and multicultural state. Our institutions of government – and especially our parliament – should be secular and welcoming of all people. We would like to see both houses of the West Australian parliament address this issue,” she said.
In August last year, the RSA urged the upper house to consider the issue as part of a review that sought to “modernise” the Standing Orders. As part of the review by the Standing Committee on Procedure & Privileges, Dr Walker questioned the appropriateness of retaining the prayer.
Following the release of the committee’s report, which recommended keeping the prayer, Dr Walker told the parliament that “…in the context of modernising, and in a multicultural society, I would have at least expected we had discussed the prayers in this house.”
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
Photo: Alannah MacTiernan (Facebook)