The Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) is urging non-religious elected representatives in local councils, state parliaments and federal parliament to take inspiration from a Boroondara councillor and call for exclusionary prayer rituals to be replaced with more inclusive practices at the start of meetings.
Non-religious councillor Victor Franco is now declining to stand for the recital of the opening prayer, arguing that the practice marginalises non-religious people and people of minority faiths.
RSA president Meredith Doig (pictured) said many non-religious elected representatives are pressured to stand to observe prayer rituals in councils and parliaments across the country.
“Our government institutions should be secular and welcoming of all people, including non-religious people and people of minority faiths. Yet every day in our government institutions, elected officials, staff, and members of the public are being compelled to stand for sectarian prayer rituals,” she said.
“We know there are many elected representatives across Australia who want their council or parliament to become secular, more inclusive and welcoming for all people. We urge them to follow Victor’s lead and refuse to stand for prayer rituals.”
Dr Doig said the issue of imposing prayer in government institutions should be considered at the same time as the Religious Discrimination Bill.
“For those government members, Labor politicians, and religious lobby groups supporting the Religious Discrimination Bill, the issue of prayer recitals in government institutions is really a litmus test to see how fair-dinkum they are when it comes to protecting religious belief and non-belief equally,” she said.
“They are claiming the bill will protect belief and non-belief equally, yet they ignore the imposition of daily religious prayer rituals on non-religious Australians who work in councils and parliaments. In the census, Australians increasingly identify as having No Religion. This daily prayer ritual is not fair and it’s no longer acceptable.”
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Dr Meredith Doig OAM