A Liberal National Party member of parliament has credited the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the retention of exclusively Christian worship at the opening of the chamber every day under the Albanese government.
In an interview on Christian radio this week, Terry Young (pictured), the member for Longman in Queensland, said that he and his colleagues had expected the Albanese government would remove the prayer rituals.
But he said the Speaker – Labor member Milton Dick – had ensured the practice continued.
“We open every day in parliament with prayer… It’s just the Lord’s Prayer. It’s very simple… We thought for sure that that would go with the current government, because the Prime Minister – I’m not sure about his position but he doesn’t seem to be a person of great faith,” Mr Young told Christian Vision 20Twenty radio.
“But Speaker, to his credit, kept it. So we’ve kept that going.”
At the opening of the House of Representatives and the Senate each day, the standing orders require that the Speaker and the President in the respective chambers recite two Christian prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer.
At the opening of the new term of parliament last year, the Senate’s new President Sue Lines said that, as an atheist, she did not wish to recite the prayer. However, her senior Labor colleagues have forced her to continue with the practice.
In July last year, the RSA wrote to both Speaker Dick and President Lines to urge them to replace prayer rituals with something more modern, inclusive and reflective of the community.
Speaking to a gathering of Christians for the National Prayer Breakfast at Parliament House late last year, Speaker Dick – a Christian – said prayer was important.
“By praying, it reminds us all how small we are and just how important those prayers are, particularly at this difficult time for the world and some of the challenges that our country is facing,” he said.
“God is the great unifier. You only need to look in this room – where you’ve seen people from around the country who have travelled far to join us in prayer today, people from different political beliefs and values from across our parliaments and Senate.
“To make sure that as a country we unify and make sure that those prayers for those in need and, as the Governor-General said, for those who are doing it particularly difficult, now more than ever our country needs to be unified. And those prayers that will be in this room and outside this room, and across Australia, God will listen and God will provide.”
Asked how many MPs usually attend the prayer recital at the opening of daily proceedings, Mr Young said it was optional except for those who had to be “on duty” in the chamber.
“I make a point of getting there every day – I don’t think I’ve missed one. I think it’s a good way – it takes about two minutes, and it’s a good thing.”
In November last year, the RSA wrote to Speaker Dick and President Lines seeking information about how many members of their respective chambers stand outside the chamber, or avoid coming to the chamber, during the opening of proceedings each day because they do not wish to participate in the acts of Christian worship. We have not received responses.
Momentum for change on this issue is building across the country, with a number of local governments having recently removed prayer recitals, with councillors taking joint action in calling for state intervention, and with motions being put to state parliaments (catch up on the latest developments here). In Victoria, the Andrews government has pledged to remove prayers from parliament in its current term.
In the interview on Christian radio, Mr Young said the Bible was the “blueprint of a successful life”.
“It’s been proven over and over and over again. And whether you’re in politics, whether you’re in business or whether you’re an employee or just working in a job or a farmer – it doesn’t matter what you do – if you dig out those principles, those little nuggets of wisdom that are in the Bible and apply those to your life, you’re going to have success,” he said.
Image: Terry Young MP (Facebook)
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia.