New South Wales upper house member Abigail Boyd will push for a committee inquiry into the appropriateness of opening the state parliament each day with the recital of exclusively Christian prayers.
The Greens MLC has put a motion on the Notice Paper for the matter to be referred to the Legislative Council’s Procedures Committee.
In the motion, Ms Boyd asks for the committee to consider the “appropriateness of and alternatives to” the recitation of the daily prayers, including the Lord’s prayer, under Standing Order 28.
The motion asks that the committee consider the appropriateness and suitability of alternatives, including: a) replacing the Lord’s Prayer with a minute’s silence for prayer and reflection; b) replacing the Lord’s Prayer with prayers from a number of different religions, to be recited either together each day or in turn on separate days; c) replacing the Lord’s Prayer with a secular reflection on members’ responsibility to the people of New South Wales; d) the abolition of the Lord’s Prayer, without replacing the reading of the Lord’s Prayer with an alternative practice.
Yesterday, the Legislative Council established the Procedures Committee for the new term of parliament, making it possible for matters to now be referred to the committee for deliberation.
In October last year, Ms Boyd told the RSA Webinar that each day in parliament she joins with a number of colleagues in waiting outside the chamber while the prayers are recited.
In the webinar, Ms Boyd said that about half of members in the Legislative Council opposed having acts of worship as part of parliamentary procedures but were not “prepared to have the battle”.
Earlier this month, the state’s new multicultural minister Steve Kamper told the Rationalist Society of Australia that the prayer issue would be “a matter for the Parliament” to decide.
In April, RSA president Dr Meredith Doig wrote to Mr Kamper and Premier Chris Minns to ask whether the new Labor government would replace daily Christian worship in both houses of parliament with more inclusive, secular practices.
“Your question about the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the NSW Parliament is a matter for the Parliament,” Mr Kamper wrote.
“On a somewhat related matter, I was proud to be sworn in as Minister alongside Cabinet colleagues who are of diverse religious affiliations and no religious affiliation.”
In an article on the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website last week, Ms Boyd said New South Wales’ institutions needed to reflect the diversity of gender, ethnicity, religion and cultural backgrounds of the people they represent.
“The reading of the Lord’s Prayer in parliament is just another way this place fails to actually look like the people it’s meant to represent. Parliament isn’t a Christian institution, but with an exclusively Christian prayer read every day in parliament, you wouldn’t know it,” she said.
“Acknowledging that parliament is not a Christian institution would help in breaking down the sociocultural barriers to participation in our democratic institutions and bring the parliament more into step with modern society.
“It would make it more representative of the diversity within general society and, increasingly, more representative of those of us working within parliament as well.”